November 13, 2007
1 min read

Women making gains in ophthalmology, medicine

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NEW ORLEANS — Women continue to become a larger part of the ophthalmic community, and the medical community as a whole, according to a presenter here.

"In the last 20 years, the number of female physicians nearly quadrupled," Ann M. Renucci, MD, FACS, said during the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting. "There are more women in medicine today than at any point in history."

In a session sponsored by Women in Ophthalmology, Dr. Renucci showed that in 1994, 25.5% of ophthalmologist members-in-training were women. Ten years later, 34.2% were women, she said.

"This generally reflects the increased number of all women in all specialties of medicine," she said.

In 2003, a "milestone" 50% of medical school applicants and matriculates were women and, in 2004, women made up 25% of the physician base and 40% of residents and fellows. It is predicted that by 2010, women will account for 30% of practicing physicians, she said.

Still, Dr. Renucci said "minimal change" has occurred in the distribution of these female physicians.

"Women tend to gravitate toward non-surgical specialties and primary care, such as internal medicine, pediatrics, family practice and [obstetrics/gynecology]. In fact, in 2005, 53% of women residents were in one of these four specialties," she said.

Women are also making "great strides" in academic medicine, Dr. Renucci said.

In looking at full-time faculty at the Association of American Medical Colleges, 32% are women. But, when broken down into subspecialties, the same differences are seen. For instance, Dr. Renucci said, women in pediatric departments make up 22% of the faculty, whereas females only represent 2% of orthopedic surgery.

"Women are still underrepresented" in executive academic leadership, Dr. Renucci said. Just 10% of department chairs are women, and 16% of full professors and 11% of medical school deans are women.

Dr. Renucci said an age disparity could partly explain these issues. Women under 45 years of age make up 60% of all female physicians. Women also tend to seek shorter hours, work part-time and retire at an earlier age, Dr. Renucci said.

"This is probably partly due to the continued challenge of balancing work and family responsibilities, and these factors will likely influence the face of medicine in the years to come," she said.