Women in Medicine: Evidence That More Evidence Is Insufficient in Effecting Improvements

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Academic Medicine’s special collection on women in medicine in the August 2016 issue fleshes out a body of evidence that was already standing tall in 2002 when the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC’s) Increasing Women’s Leadership Project Implementation Committee published its report.1 Apparently, the changes indicated years ago to support continuing progress still lack “legs.” As Helitzer et al2 conclude, “The academic structure and culture … have proven exceptionally resistant to change with its deeply entrenched faculty values system and ingrained sociocultural norms that impede organizational innovations and leadership diversity.” Also of interest, this team of investigators generated a “systems of career influence” model highlighting the interplay between individual choices and organizational practices3 that is also relevant to men’s development—as I find true of all the best work that is published under the heading “women in medicine.” As Sklar4 notes in his helpful prefatory editorial, “a 24-hour child care center in the hospital … [is] a patient safety issue … it is an issue for everyone.” Yet little progress in this direction has been occurring.
Since we now have evidence that more evidence is insufficient in effecting such improvements, let’s do more with the good examples we have—for instance, the women in medicine and health science program initiatives that have achieved impressive results at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine.5 Also, many men are attending to the extra challenges women face and more effectively mentoring them to develop their careers,6 and many department heads are working individually to foster work–life integration and the development of all their faculty.
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