By Mian A. Jan, MD, FACC, FSAI
President of the Chester County Medical Society
I was reading TIME magazine recently and came across an article about the Supreme Court of the United States. Authors analyzed Supreme Court’s oral arguments from 2004 to 2015 and created a data set of all the interruptions by justices and advocates; data revealed female judges were much more frequently interrupted. Between 2011 and 2015 female judges were interrupted three times more as compared to male judges. I am not certain if that indicates a lack of respect for female judges but inference was that it does. It started me thinking that if there is a gender bias in the most respected group in the country, are we also guilty in medicine?
I recall that when my wife Amber started her practice about two decades ago, she would complain that when she walked into a patient’s room she was often asked if she was a nurse; although nursing is a most honorable profession, the fact is, that being a female puts you in a certain category. Although things have changed and it’s rare that this happens anymore, the data I reviewed still shows bias against female doctors.
The most recent data revealed that there are 608,685 male and 313,874 female doctors in the USA. Another 749 were listed as unspecified which I am not certain what that means, but let’s say those were gender unknown. A BMJ article reviewed compensation by gender and race, and the data revealed an annual compensation to be
• white male doctors 253,042 dollars
• black male doctors 188,230 dollars
• white female doctors 163,234 dollars
• black female doctors 152,784 dollars
It appears, at least in compensation, that there is a bias against both minorities and female doctors, but more so against females.
But as you look deeper, you find that they did not separate sub-specialty doctors from general physicians, and on average specialists make more, and there are more male specialists. But then is it gender bias that pushes woman into less lucrative specialties, because of home and family obligations.
The strange thing is, that despite perception that males make better doctors, the data does not support that. One of the largest studies published in JAMA which looked at 1.5 million Medicare hospital admissions over four years revealed that if your admitting physician was female, you were .4% less likely to die, and that would save 32,000 lives a year. The FDA has approved many therapies that cost more and save less lives. Although there were some issues with the study [they used the admitting doctor as owner of data but the majority of patients were taken care of by multiple doctors, both male and female], data does support that female doctors tend to follow guidelines more closely.
I believe that with the new generation, all kinds of biase, both gender and race, are disappearing. Hopefully, every physician, more importantly, will be looked at and respected on his or her own merit rather than his or her sex or skin color.
Mian A. Jan, M.D., is a practicing Cardiologist and President of Chester County Medical Society.
Contact Dr. Jan at 610-827-1543.
Reprinted from the Chester County Medical Society publication, Chester County Medicine, Summer 2017 issue.
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