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Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31823f0f01
Letters to the Editor

Establishing Paid Parental Leave for Male and Female Physicians

Gottlieb, Amy S. MD; Hampton, B. Star MD; Cain, Joanna M. MD

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Associate professor (clinical), Departments of Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence, Rhode Island; agottlieb@wihri.org.

Assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence, Rhode Island.

Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, and former chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island.

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To the Editor:

Both male and female physicians express concerns over balancing parenthood with a medical career and consider the adequacy of parental leave policies when making career decisions.1,2 Nonetheless, academic health care institutions have been slow to implement paid parental leave for doctors. Where these policies exist, they often are available only to female faculty who are postpartum—a narrow, even insensitive, definition of parenthood.3

We believe that policies of paid leave for both men and women welcoming new children into the home can be established but that two key strategies must be employed to make this happen: Policy advocates (1) must engage senior hospital administration and faculty physicians of all ranks throughout the development process and (2) should emphasize financially driven arguments to support their proposal.

In addition, initially identifying faculty priorities, such as hospital coverage of insurance premiums during leave, can facilitate downstream negotiations with the hospital administration. Interfacing with hospital departments of human resources, finance, and risk management can provide critical information on historic leave patterns, faculty salaries, benefits costs, and malpractice regulations and also foster consistent feedback on the best approach to the policy initiative. Identifying a major source of savings—for example, recouped malpractice premiums for employed faculty on leave—can address short-term cost containment concerns. Emphasizing long-term potential for savings on recruitment and retention can reinforce comprehensive parental leave as a sound business decision.

Once a policy has been approved, successful implementation means ensuring that current faculty know about the new policy and are able to avail themselves of this benefit easily and that future faculty receive information about it as part of standard new-employee orientation. In this regard, continued oversight may be required.

We applied the strategies described above to an initiative at our institution and implemented a paid parental leave for both men and women physicians. We feel confident recommending our approach and hope others may find it useful for developing family-friendly policies in their own work environments.

Amy S. Gottlieb, MD

Associate professor (clinical), Departments of

Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Warren

Alpert Medical School of Brown University and

Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island,

Providence, Rhode Island; agottlieb@wihri.org.

B. Star Hampton, MD

Assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and

Gynecology, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown

University and Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode

Island, Providence, Rhode Island.

Joanna M. Cain, MD

Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology,

University of Massachusetts Medical School,

Worcester, Massachusetts, and former chair,

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Warren

Alpert Medical School of Brown University and

Women and Infants Hospital, Providence, Rhode

Island.

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References

1. Shollen SL, Bland CJ, Finstad DA, Taylor AL. Organizational climate and family life: How these factors affect the status of women faculty at one medical school. Acad Med. 2009;84:87–94.

2. Foster SW, McMurray JE, Linzer M, Leavitt JW, Rosenberg M, Carnes M. Results of a gender-climate and work-environment survey at a midwestern academic health center. Acad Med. 2000;75:653–660.

3. Bristol MN, Abbuhl S, Cappola AR, Sonnad SS. Work-life policies for faculty at the top ten medical schools. J Womens Health. 2008;17:1311–1320.

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges

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