The Evolving Presence of Women in Academic Plastic Surgery: A Study of the Past 40 Years

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Among surgical subspecialties, plastic surgery holds the highest percentage of women, and, the female contingent of board-certified plastic surgeons and trainees has grown steadily. However, their academic impact has been underestimated. We present the academic footprint of female plastic surgeons over the past 40 years.


A list of female plastic surgeons currently active at, and retired from, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education–accredited plastic surgery residency programs was compiled. Each surgeon was searched on PubMed to gather their total number of publications, journals, and topics of research after completion of training. Date of publication and 5-year impact factor for each journal were recorded. Publications were organized into 10-year periods (1976 to 1985, 1986 to 1995, 1996 to 2005, and 2006 to 2016).


One hundred fifty-five currently active and 80 retired academic female plastic surgeons were identified, who published 2982 articles in 479 peer-reviewed journals. The average 5-year impact factor was 4.093. The number of publications increased with each decade: 37 (1976 to 1985), 218 (1986 to 1995), 472 (1996 to 2005), and 2255 (2006 to 2016). The most commonly published areas were hand/nerve (22 percent), craniofacial (21 percent), and breast (20 percent). Over time, publications in hand/nerve research decreased (76, 60, 38, and 14 percent, respectively); craniofacial-related publications increased (8, 11, 18, and 23 percent, respectively); and publications in breast research increased (0, 8, 9, and 24 percent, respectively). The 2006 to 2016 period yielded the most even distribution of research topics.


The academic contribution of female plastic surgeons has substantially increased in number and has become more evenly distributed across subspecialty topics.

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