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Research Letter
February 13, 2018

Paid Family and Childbearing Leave Policies at Top US Medical Schools

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2Department of Dermatology, University of California, San Francisco
  • 3University of California, Berkeley
  • 4Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
JAMA. 2018;319(6):611-614. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.19519

Retaining women in academic medicine is challenging, despite gender parity in medical training. Child-rearing and differential preferences on work-life balance may contribute to sex differences in retention in medicine.1 Retaining women during childbearing years is central to gender parity, as even short workforce interruptions can have long-term consequences—and may partially explain the gender wage gap. Our goal was to examine variations in childbearing and family leave policies at top US medical schools.

We reviewed US medical schools on top-10 lists for both funding by the National Institutes of Health and academic ranking by the US News & World Report academic ranking, which yielded 12 unique institutions. Leave policies were collected between September 2016 and August 2017, located via web searches for childbearing, maternity, family, parental, and childrearing leave/absence at each school. Childbearing leave was defined as a leave of absence taken by birth mothers; family leave was defined as a leave of absence taken by birth mothers after childbearing leave, or by fathers or non–birth parents to raise their child. Data on leave duration, salary support, policy wording and clarity (including explicit reference to fathers, adoptees, or same-sex couples), and constraints imposed were examined; discrepancies between reviewing authors were reconciled. Faculty Affairs departments were contacted in August 2017 to ensure accurate interpretation of leave duration and salary support. The institutional review board at the University of California, San Francisco, declined to review this study.