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Is There Evidence of Gender Bias in the Oral Examination for Initial Certification by the American Board of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation?

Driscoll, Sherilyn W., MD; Robinson, Lawrence R., MD; Raddatz, Mikaela M., PhD; Kinney, Carolyn L., MD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: June 2019 - Volume 98 - Issue 6 - p 512–515
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000001126
Education & Administration
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Objective Unconscious bias may result in a prejudicial evaluation of another person and lead to unfair treatment. Potential gender bias risk exists in the scoring process on the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation oral examination (Part II) because of the face-to-face interactions between candidates and examiners. This study was undertaken to determine whether performance on the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Part II examination differed based on candidate gender or configuration of examiner/candidate gender pairings. The impact of examiner unconscious bias training on candidate performance was also assessed.

Design This is a retrospective observational study of first-time Part II physical medicine and rehabilitation certification examination test takers between 2013 and 2018.

Results There were significant differences in pass rates (men 84%, women 89%) and mean scaled scores (men 6.56, women 6.81) between men and women (P < 0.001) with the biggest domain score differences in data acquisition and interpersonal and communication skills. Implementation of examiner unconscious bias training did not impact candidate performance.

Conclusions Women candidates scored higher and had a higher pass rate than men candidates overall on the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Part II examination. This difference does not seem to be due to scoring gender bias by the Part II examiners or due to candidate aptitude as measured on the Part I examination.

From the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota (SWD); University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (LRR); and American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Rochester, Minnesota (MMR, CLK).

All correspondence should be addressed to: Sherilyn W. Driscoll, MD, Mayo Clinic, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55901.

SWD and LRR are Board Directors, CLK is Executive Director, and MMR is psychometrician for the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (www.ajpmr.com).

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