Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Top-Tier Positions Still Fall beyond Grasp of Most Women Doctors

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Top-Tier Positions Still Fall beyond Grasp of Most Women Doctors

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- This should be the perfect time to be a woman in medicine.

The days of women toiling as a mostly unwelcome presence in the country's medical schools are long over: Women now account for roughly 45 percent of all medical students, up from about 25 percent in 1980. And once they graduate, they are in high demand: Many patients, especially women, now request female doctors because, among other reasons, they are perceived as spending more time with patients.

Further, women's health issues -- breast and ovarian cancer most prominently -- are front and center in medical research and political agendas, fostering star-studded fund-raisers, road races and the like in every major city in the country. But despite these gains, the top tiers of medicine have remained inaccessible to many women, largely, experts say, because they are unwilling or unable to find a balance between the years of study those specialties require and a life outside of medicine. "Basically, the picture is bad," said Dr. Wendy Chavkin, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Women's Association. "Women comprise very few dean and tenured faculty positions, and there are a lack of them in surgical specialties." The main reason, Chavkin, said, is that in medicine "there are still issues about career pathways that are the least bit off-track, like taking time off for child rearing." But rather than giving up their medical careers for their families, as so many of their predecessors felt forced to do, or forgoing motherhood altogether, more women doctors today are finding ways to practice medicine part-time -- as some women in law, journalism, finance and other demanding fields have been doing for years. They are forming practices with other women, or working as employees for practices run by managed-care companies that give them a chance for an office life that is closer to 9 to 5, willingly sacrificing higher salaries for a flexibility that until recently was virtually unheard of in medicine. In a recent study, the Commonwealth Fund, a large private philanthropic organization in New York, found that 25 percent of female doctors who were surveyed said that they worked fewer than 40 hours a week, compared with 12 percent of male doctors. And 17 percent of female doctors said they worked 30 hours a week or fewer, compared with only 8 percent of males. In New York state, the trend of women working fewer hours is borne out most dramatically among younger doctors. Overall, female doctors work 9 percent fewer hours than male doctors. But among female doctors under 45, the number jumps to 15 percent, said Edward Salsberg, director of the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the State University of New York at Albany. "The emergence of managed care has introduced the idea that you can be an employee," said Dr. …

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