Racial, Gender Disparities Seen in Surgery Board Certification

John Commins, May 1, 2012

Women and ethnic and racial minorities who, while in medical school, declare their intention to become board-certified general surgeons, are more likely to fall off that career path and into other specialties. And even if they remain in surgery, this group is less likely to complete the surgery board-certification process, a study shows.


Dorothy A. Andriole, MD, coauthor of the study, which appears in the May issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, says she hopes the findings will spur surgical leaders to develop strategies to encourage women and minorities to pursue surgery and achieve board certification.

"If you want to create a workforce of great people and you are only tapping into half the workforce, you are missing a lot of great people," says Andriole, an associate professor in the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. "Physicians from groups that have been historically underrepresented in medicine tend to provide care for those populations."

Andriole told HealthLeaders Media that women represent about half of all medical students, but only about 13% of surgeons. "It is well worth examining why we would be seeing gender, race and ethnicity differences among those people who graduated and wanted to become surgeons," she says.

"There is always going to be some attrition. Having said that, we looked at academic performance and other measures, and even after accounting for those other measures we found women more likely to leave and more likely to be practicing but not as board certified surgeons."

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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