• Journal of neurosurgery · May 2024

    Barriers to neurosurgery for medical students: a national study focused on the intersectionality of gender and race.

    • Sangami Pugazenthi, Karen Malacon, Nora C Kim, Caren M Stuebe, Nina Yoh, Debarati Bhanja, Erin Walker, Megan M J Bauman, Kathryn Becker, Gabrielle W Johnson, Rose M Caston, Hedwig Lee, Jennifer M Strahle, and Sharona Ben-Haim.
    • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.
    • J. Neurosurg. 2024 May 17: 1121-12.

    ObjectiveDespite 51.2% of medical school graduates being female, only 29.8% of neurosurgery residency applicants are female. Furthermore, only 12.6% of neurosurgery applicants identify as underrepresented in medicine (URM). Evaluating the entry barriers for female and URM students is crucial in promoting the equity and diversity of the neurosurgical workforce. The objective of this study was to evaluate barriers to neurosurgery for medical students while considering the interaction between gender and race.MethodsA Qualtrics survey was distributed widely to US medical students, assessing 14 factors of hesitancy toward neurosurgery. Likert scale responses, representing statement agreeability, converted to numeric values on a 7-point scale were analyzed by Mann-Whitney U-test and ANOVA comparisons with Bonferroni correction.ResultsOf 540 respondents, 68.7% were female and 22.6% were URM. There were 22.6% male non-URM, 7.4% male URM, 53.5% female non-URM, and 15.2% female URM respondents. The predominant reasons for hesitancy toward neurosurgery included work/life integration, length of training, competitiveness of residency position, and perceived malignancy of the field. Females were more hesitant toward neurosurgery due to maternity/paternity needs (p = 0.005), the absence of seeing people like them in the field (p < 0.001), and opportunities to pursue health equity work (p < 0.001). Females were more likely to have difficulties finding a mentor in neurosurgery who represented their identities (p = 0.017). URM students were more hesitant toward neurosurgery due to not seeing people like them in the field (p < 0.001). Subanalysis revealed that when students were stratified by both gender and URM status, there were more reasons for hesitancy toward neurosurgery that had significant differences between groups (male URM, male non-URM, female URM, and female non-URM students), suggesting the importance of intersectionality in this analysis.ConclusionsThe authors highlight the implications of gender and racial diversity in the neurosurgical workforce on medical student interest and recruitment. Their findings suggest the importance of actively working to address these barriers, including 1) maternity/paternity policy reevaluation, standardization, and dissemination; and 2) actively providing resources for the creation of mentorship relationships for both women and URM students in an effort to create a workforce that aligns with the changing demographics of medical graduates to continue to improve diversity in neurosurgery.

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