Experiences of Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment among Residents in General Surgery Programs across the US

Cary Jo R. Schlick, Ryan J. Ellis, Caryn D. Etkin, Caprice C. Greenberg, Jacob A. Greenberg, Patricia L. Turner, Jo Buyske, David B. Hoyt, Thomas J. Nasca, Karl Y. Bilimoria, Yue Yung Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Importance: Mistreatment is a common experience among surgical residents and is associated with burnout. Women have been found to experience mistreatment at higher rates than men. Further characterization of surgical residents' experiences with gender discrimination and sexual harassment may inform solutions. Objective: To describe the types, sources, and factors associated with (1) discrimination based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation and (2) sexual harassment experienced by residents in general surgery programs across the US. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional national survey study was conducted after the 2019 American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination (ABSITE). The survey asked respondents about their experiences with gender discrimination and sexual harassment during the academic year starting July 1, 2018, through the testing date in January 2019. All clinical residents enrolled in general surgery programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education were eligible. Exposures: Specific types, sources, and factors associated with gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment. Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcome was the prevalence of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Secondary outcomes included sources of discrimination and harassment and associated individual- and program-level factors using gender-stratified multivariable logistic regression models. Results: The survey was administered to 8129 eligible residents; 6956 responded (85.6% response rate)from 301 general surgery programs. Of those, 6764 residents had gender data available (3968 [58.7%] were male and 2796 [41.3%] were female individuals). In total, 1878 of 2352 female residents (79.8%) vs 562 of 3288 male residents (17.1%) reported experiencing gender discrimination (P <.001), and 1026 of 2415 female residents (42.5%) vs 721 of 3360 male residents (21.5%) reported experiencing sexual harassment (P <.001). The most common type of gender discrimination was being mistaken for a nonphysician (1943 of 5640 residents [34.5%] overall; 1813 of 2352 female residents [77.1%]; 130 of 3288 male residents [4.0%]), with patients and/or families as the most frequent source. The most common form of sexual harassment was crude, demeaning, or explicit comments (1557 of 5775 residents [27.0%] overall; 901 of 2415 female residents [37.3%]; 656 of 3360 male residents [19.5%]); among female residents, the most common source of this harassment was patients and/or families, and among male residents, the most common source was coresidents and/or fellows. Among female residents, gender discrimination was associated with pregnancy (odds ratio [OR], 1.93; 95% CI, 1.03-3.62) and higher ABSITE scores (highest vs lowest quartile: OR, 1.67; 95% CI, 1.14-2.43); among male residents, gender discrimination was associated with parenthood (OR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.31-2.27) and lower ABSITE scores (highest vs lowest quartile: OR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.43-0.76). Senior residents were more likely to report experiencing sexual harassment than interns (postgraduate years 4 and 5 vs postgraduate year 1: OR, 1.77 [95% CI, 1.40-2.24] among female residents; 1.31 [95% CI, 1.01-1.70] among male residents). Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, gender discrimination and sexual harassment were common experiences among surgical residents and were frequently reported by women. These phenomena warrant multifaceted context-specific strategies for improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)942-952
Number of pages11
JournalJAMA Surgery
Volume156
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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