QUB research explains male-dominated surgery field

  • Research conducted at Queen's University Belfast has highlighted the male-domination of the surgical field in medicine, and offers new explanations and insights for why this is the case and how it can be solved.

    New research conducted by Queen’s University Belfast in collaboration with Gold Coast Health and the University of Melbourne may be shedding some light on the reason that the surgery field is so male-dominated. Women account for just 11% of surgical consultants in the UK and Australasia despite around 60% of medical students being women.

    Previous research into the male-domination of surgery has focused on that 11% of women who did enter the field and tried to ascertain the reasons that they stuck with it. The new research published in medical journal The Lancet takes the more useful approach of focusing on the students who initially aimed for a surgical position during education but didn't end up in those roles.

    The study makes some robust claims and findings that should be used to inform public policy in medicine, discovering that women are just as capable as their male counterparts when entering surgical training but that only a small percentage actually complete it. Most choose to leave training very soon after starting it, even those for whom the role of surgeon was a life-long dream, and this research indicates that women are treated differently than men in surgical training.

    Professor Tim Dornan from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast explained that "It is already known that young surgeons endure fatigue, long working hours, difficulty taking time off, strains on personal relationships, and bullying. By analysing ‘leavers’ experiences in depth, we were able to show how these factors discriminated selectively against women." 

    Source: Press release (The Lancet and QUB)

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