Women of the American Otological Society

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To describe the history of women in the American Otological Society (AOS).


Biographies of the early women of the AOS were compiled through review of the AOS transactions, their published scholarship, newspaper articles, and memorials. Interviews were conducted with the only two women to have led the society and also with former colleagues and family members of pioneering AOS women members who are no longer with us. The evolving gender composition of the society over time was researched from AOS membership lists and compared with data on surgical workforce composition from multiple sources such as the Association of American Medical Colleges, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.


Although American women specialized in otology as far back as 1895, the first woman to be invited to join the AOS as Associate member in 1961 was Dorothy Wolff, PhD. The first female full member was otologic surgeon LaVonne Bergstrom, M.D., who was elected in 1977, 109 years after the foundation of the Society. As of 2017, only two women have served as AOS President. The first was Aina Julianna Gulya, M.D., who took office during the 133rd year in 2001. At the time of the sesquicentennial (2017), 7.5% of AOS members are women including three of eight who serve on the AOS Council. This compares with 15.8% of women among the otolaryngology workforce and a growing 10.9% representation among those who have earned subcertification in neurotology.


Gender disparities remain in the AOS, but both participation and scholarly contributions by women in otology have grown substantially since the society's inception 150 years ago, and particularly in the 21st century. Increasing the presence of women in leadership provides role models and mentorship for the future.

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