November 7, 2023

Diversity lacking in US academic surgery department leadership

Editor's Note

There is a lack of gender, ethnic, and racial diversity in leadership roles in US academic surgery departments, according to a new study in JAMA Surgery that was published on October 11.

The authors included in their analysis 154 surgical departments within 146 medical schools and affiliated hospitals across the US and Puerto Rico from January 15 to July 15, 2022–2,165 faculty in total.

They found more men in leadership positions at all levels

  • chairs (85.9% men versus 14.1% women)
  • vice chairs (68.4% versus 31.6%)
  • division chiefs (87.1% versus 12.9%). 

On diversity, they found:

  • Only 192 leaders (8.9%) were from racial or ethnic groups that are underrepresented in medicine (URiM).
  • When URiM individuals were in leadership roles, it was often as vice chairs of diversity, equity, and inclusion (51.6%) or faculty development (17.9%). 
  • The greatest URiM representation was found in division chief roles in transplant surgery (13.8%). 
  • The lowest was in oral and maxillofacial surgery (5.0%). 

The authors note that female and URiM surgical leaders are disproportionately found in roles that may not lead to future promotion or chair positions, indicating a pressing need for schools to intentionally address these imbalances.


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