Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Applications

Breaking Down Barriers in Gastroenterology

“At each training and career development milestone from medical school to well into their careers, women choosing a path in gastroenterology encounter a variety of challenges that may impair their progress and ability to succeed in a male-dominated field.”

There is no standard family leave policy for medical fellowship programs and some medical training programs have no policy at all.

This is just one of the challenges faced by any gastroenterology student, but the impact is acutely felt by female trainees early in their careers. That’s on top of documented gender biases and ergonomics challenges facing women entering the field.

That’s why Drs. Jessica Bernica, Milena Gould Suarez, Richa Shukla, and Sharmila Anandasabapathy from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, have compiled a list of recommendations for their female colleagues hoping to break down barriers in the medical field.

“At each training and career development milestone from medical school to well into their careers, women choosing a path in gastroenterology encounter a variety of challenges that may impair their progress and ability to succeed in a male-dominated field,” they write in a new review article published in Techniques and Innovations in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.  

Their primary goal is to help more women become program directors, division chiefs, and practice directors in the field of gastroenterology. The latest data shows that only 17.6 percent of practicing gastroenterologists are female, despite increasing numbers of women graduating from medical school each year.

Medical school is where the authors begin their review.

From the very outset of their careers, female medical students may encounter several barriers when formal considering a gastroenterology specialty. They include:

  • Women being discouraged to enter physically demanding fields
  • Lack of exposure to gastroenterology
  • A dearth of female role models in the field
  • Concerns about lifestyle and work-life balance
  • Competitiveness of the match process, caused mainly by few programs being available

Bernica and her co-authors outline several ways in which women can overcome these challenges in medical school to successfully match for a fellowship and pursue a gastroenterology career. Their recommendations for medical school students include:

  • Request GI rotations, both inpatient and outpatient
  • Attend society conferences for more exposure to women in the field
  • Participate in gastroenterology research to help with match prospects
  • Seek fellowship with strong female representation on staff

The review also includes recommendations for fellowship as well as early-, mid-, and late-career stages for their female colleagues. The importance of mentorship is cited throughout.

“The current historical moment from the global pandemic to the increased focus on inequities, both racial and gender, have brought these issues to the forefront,” the authors conclude. “Today, there is an even greater need for visionary leadership and concrete policies that gradually raze the myriad obstacles faced by women (and even more, by minority women) along their career paths.”

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