American medical schools have gradually achieved balance in the sex of medical graduates over the past 4 decades. However, orthopaedic surgery has remained disproportionately male-dominated. Our aim was to quantify this discrepancy across surgical specialties at the residency training and academic faculty levels. We additionally sought to evaluate the prevalence of women in orthopaedic subspecialty and research societies.
Publicly available data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) for the 2005-2006 to 2016-2017 academic years were pooled for analysis of sex in surgical residency programs. The AAMC 2016 Faculty Roster provided data on the sex composition of academic medical faculty, including rank. Current subspecialty and research society membership demographic characteristics were obtained by directly contacting each group.
Female orthopaedic surgery residents represented 0.92% of all female medical residents in the 2016-2017 academic year. Orthopaedic surgery remains the medical specialty with the lowest proportion of female residents at 14.0% in the 2016-2017 academic year, up from 11.0% in the 2005-2006 academic year. The percentage increase over this time period (27.3%) lags behind other male-dominated fields such as neurological surgery (56.8%) and thoracic surgery (111.2%). Women account for 17.8% of full-time orthopaedic surgery faculty at American medical schools, lower than all other medical specialties. In the 2015-2016 academic year, 1 orthopaedic surgery department chair and only 8.7% of professors of orthopaedic surgery were female. Women make up 6.5% of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) membership. The specialty societies with the fewest women are The Knee Society (0.5%), The Hip Society (0.6%), and the Cervical Spine Research Society (1.5%).
Orthopaedic surgery’s slow increase in the number of female residents and academic faculty lags behind that of other specialties. The lack of female orthopaedic surgeons in higher ranks within medical schools is detrimental to recruitment of female medical students to the field. Further efforts should be made toward increasing medical student exposure to orthopaedics and to female mentors in an effort to ensure that the field continues to attract the nation’s top medical graduates.
1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois
aE-mail address for C.C. Chambers: email@example.com