Women in medicine

Study to examine under-representation in higher echelons of academia

Tufts School of Medicine is one of five medical schools in the country participating in a landmark study to explore the reasons for the dramatic under-representation of women in senior positions in academic medicine and develop solutions to the long-standing problem.

Brandeis University will conduct the five-year project, “Gender, Culture and Advancement in Academic Medicine,” and has received a $1.4 million start-up grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation of New York. Linda Pololi, a senior scientist and resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis, serves as principal investigator. Other participating medical schools include Duke University, George Washington University, the University of Minnesota and the University of New Mexico.

An equal number of men and women are admitted to U.S. medical schools, but just 14 percent of tenured faculty in the country’s 125 medical schools are women, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). And, according to the AAMC, only 11 percent of department chairs and eight percent of the deans are women.

“There is widespread perception that there may be something in the organization and culture of academic medicine that disadvantages women and keeps them from reaching key decision-making positions,” Pololi said. “What we are aiming for is cultural change in medical schools.”

Although the main focus of the project is the under-representation of women, the study aims to serve as a model for the perceived marginalization of other groups in academic medicine. The lack of advancement to top leadership roles for minority and generalist faculty also will be examined.

The initial phase of the project involves in-depth interviews with faculty at the five participating medical schools. A national faculty survey also will be conducted in partnership with the AAMC.