But to many physicians and medical trainees, the study served to spotlight the gender biases they’ve long encountered In the field. Or In the words of Eshani Dixit, a third-year medical student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School: “It said the quiet part out loud.”
A 2019 report In the New England Journal of Medicine found that sexual harassment, gender discrimination and verbal abuse have contributed to high rates of burnout among female doctors. The survey of 7,400 surgical residents found that 65 percent of women experienced gender discrimination on the job, either from patients, attending physicians or other staff, and 20 percent reported sexual harassment. A recent international salary survey found that female doctors make 20 to 29 percent less than their male counterparts.
Some of the barriers that women face In the medical workplace are subtle, according to Dr. Adaira Landry, an emergency medicine physician In Boston. Dr. Landry said she has sometimes been mistaken for a nurse or custodial services worker because her colleagues and patients are not accustomed to seeing a Black female doctor. She knows that standards are not applied equally when it comes to appearance, either. She recalled the discomfort she felt when she heard a white attending physician ask a Black female trainee to cover her dreadlocks because it “wasn’t a professional look.”
“I can’t and don’t want to change my hair, facial features and body frame,” Dr. Landry said. “That’s who I am. But if those are seen as unprofessional, what does that mean for me?”
Dr. Landry noted that comments about professionalism In medicine are often couched In language about making patients feel comfortable. Yet research has shown that patients feel more at ease when treated by doctors who look like them.
A 2018 study found that Black patients have better health outcomes when they are seen by Black doctors. The study found, for example, that Black patients seen by Black doctors were more likely to agree to preventive care, like cholesterol tests and diabetes screenings, and to feel “comfortable and relaxed.”
And slowly, the medical field is the growing more diverse. Last year was the first In which women ever so slightly outnumbered men In medical school. The number of Black medical students has also been gradually on the rise. And a new generation of doctors is the challenging some of the old norms and assumptions of the profession, including through the #MedBikini campaign.