Author(s): June Kim, Vy Tran, Dan Marsteller, Jack Holthaus, Anthony Dennis, Kyle McAllen
After decades of effort to achieve gender diversity in higher education, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) announced in 2018 that the majority of students matriculating into medicine were now women. However, data also collected by the AAMC showed that 40% of women will seek part-time work or leave medicine altogether within six years of completing medical training. The exodus of female physicians from practice and academic positions is a critical issue endangering the future of American healthcare. The AMMC predicts that there will be a shortage of 122,000 physicians by the year 2032, driven by the increasing health care needs of a growing population of elderly Americans. Our descriptive survey and review of the literature describe unmet needs, barriers, cultural biases, and concerns that inhibit female physicians from sustaining long-term medical careers. Physician burnout from inflexible work hours and demoralization, the inaccessibility and expense of childcare and maternity leave, and societal gender expectations regarding domestic chores at home are some of the core issues revealed from our analysis. In addition, for women who must sustain the rigors of medical education and training at the peak of their child-bearing lives, reproductive education, family planning choices, and mentorship from other colleagues is needed in the current medical education system. Investigating and adapting successful policies for diversity and inclusion of women (ex. maternity leave mandates, childcare support, breast-pumping facilities), utilizing technological advances that relieve elements of burnout, and exploring diversity supportive work models from other arenas in the business world may be the solution to retain and advance the next generation of female physicians.