Addressing Gender Inequality in the Medical Field with Marsha Klein-Patel, MD
Today marks the fourth National Women Doctors Day, an event that aims to honor female physicians across the country. It takes place every year on February 3, Elizabeth Blackwell’s birthday.
In 1858, Blackwell became the first female physician in the United States, and although much has changed since then, there are still fewer female physicians nationwide than male physicians.
Marsha E. Klein-Patel, MD, president of the Alleghany Health Network’s Women’s Institute, spoke about gender bias in the medical field, issues of representation of women and minority groups in professional and clinical fields, and what could be done to raise awareness and create a more inclusive and equitable medical community.
Klein-Patel first addressed some of the limitations of career opportunities for women in medicine.
“We know that there are many gender differences, women in all medical specialties are paid less than their male counterparts and are less likely to progress along the path to college promotions,” Klein-Patel said. . “They are also much less likely to be presidents or deans of their programs, with only 18% of chairs or university games and programs being women.”
She added that women are also less likely to write journal articles, but more likely to experience and report disrespect at work than their male counterparts (70% and 1%, respectively).
Although there had been significant positive progress in female enrollment and graduation at nearly equal rates to males since the early 2000s, Klein-Patel believed that there are institutional efforts that could help reduce these barriers that affect women once they graduate.
These efforts could ensure that women, who are significantly underrepresented in sub-specialties and surgical fields, have greater access to higher-paying positions.
However, gender bias extends far beyond the workplace, as Klein-Patel explained.
“There’s actually a wide variety of female representation in clinical trials, it depends a lot on the field, but I think it’s important to note that there is gender bias and clinical trial enrollment for the oncology and cardiology, which are the 2 biggest areas of male female mortality, as well as decreased testing in nephrology and hematology, among others,” she said. “Women are also more likely to be underrepresented in clinical trials for drugs and supplements, and procedures and other interventions, and we have been really informed during (the COVID-19 pandemic), most pregnant women are excluded from clinical trials.”
Klein-Patel suggested that resource allocation for trials targeted at women and requirements for trials to enroll equal numbers of patients represented by disease processes would be crucial to addressing disparities in clinical trials, especially when it comes to heart disease.
“We know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, accounting for 1:5 female deaths, but there is an underrepresentation of female participants in these clinical trials, as we discussed previously, which expands this gender gap and mortality,” she said. noted.
For more from Dr. Klein-Patel on issues like physician underrepresentation and burnout, listen to the full episode of DocTalk above.