Little is known about early career oncologists’ priorities regarding attending national conferences or whether their experiences differ by gender.
After approval and waiver of documentation of written informed consent by the University of Michigan institutional review board, in 2017, we surveyed 449 oncologists at 47 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers who had completed their hematology/oncology or radiation oncology training within 6 years after 2010, identified by internet searches, mailing a $20 gift and a questionnaire asking about conference attendance, perceived benefits and barriers, and demographics. All variables analyzed were self-reported except specialty, which was based on publicly available information. For 2 questions scoring importance on a scale of 1 to 10, the end points were labeled “not at all important” and “extremely important”; for an item scoring satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, the end points were labeled “not satisfied at all” to “very satisfied.” We report raw frequencies along with comparisons by gender adjusted for specialty. Multivariable linear regression models evaluated factors associated with conference attendance and with career satisfaction. Data were analyzed using SAS statistical software (version 9.4; SAS Institute, Inc).
Of 449 oncologists surveyed, 248 (55%) responded: 63 male medical oncologists, 65 female medical oncologists, 77 male radiation oncologists, and 43 female radiation oncologists. Comparison of respondents with nonrespondents showed no difference by gender, but a significant difference by specialty (48.4% [120/248] of respondents vs 32.3% [65/201] of nonrespondents were radiation oncologists, P < .001).
Most had children who required adult supervision (77 of 108 women [71.3%] vs 106 of 140 men [75.7%], P = .52). Of the 108 women, 80 (74.1%) had full-time employed spouses vs 63 of 140 men (45.0%) (P < .001). The mean (SD) weekly hours spent on parenting and domestic tasks were 41.5 (27.1) for women and 32.2 (24.0) for men (P = .01).
Women attended significantly fewer conferences in the past year than men (median [interquartile range], 2 [1-3] vs 3 [2-4]; P = .004). On multivariable analysis, women attended 0.58 fewer conferences over the past year than men after adjustment for specialty, age, years since residency, degree, spouse employment status, parental status, and weekly hours on domestic tasks.
Both men and women answered a mean of 8 (P = .78) to the question, “How important do you think attending conferences are to an oncologist's career advancement?” Men and women did not differ in endorsing perceived benefits to attending conferences, including presenting one’s research, networking, educating oneself regarding advances in oncology, and participating in committees.
Women were more likely to indicate that whether the meeting conflicted with childcare responsibilities was important when deciding to attend a conference (most important factor for 33 women [30.6%] vs 24 men [17.1%], P = .01).
Fewer men than women indicated that having children had influenced their attendance of professional conferences “very much” or “quite a bit” (49 men [35.0%] vs 52 women [48.2%], P = .04). Women scored the importance of providing on-site childcare more highly than men (mean [SD], 6.8 [2.9] vs 5.2 [3.0], respectively; P < .001). More women rated on-site childcare as “extremely important” (10/10) than men (30 women [27.8%] vs 14 men [10.0%], P = .045).
Women reported significantly lower career satisfaction than men (mean, 7.7 for men vs 7.2 for women, P = .03). On multivariable analysis (Table), gender and conference attendance both independently correlated with career satisfaction; female sex was associated with lower satisfaction (−0.57 compared with male sex; 95% CI, −1.04 to −0.10; P = .02) and conference attendance was associated with increased satisfaction (plus 0.57 per conference attended; 95% CI, 0.05-0.33; P = .01).
Our findings extend prior research in other settings1-3 to support visible, innovative actions by oncology meeting organizers, including women’s networking centers and facilitation of childcare services, as steps to ensure full participation of all those who might contribute or benefit at conferences.4
The primary limitations of this study are that the data were self-reported and respondents (55% response rate) might not be representative of the full population. We did not measure training institution or socioeconomic status (which may vary even in this high-earning population, creating unique challenges for some). The sample contained too few single parents to analyze separately. Confounding or reverse causation is possible. However, the findings suggest the possibility that facilitating attendance at national meetings might engage physicians in ways that may improve well-being and professional satisfaction.
Corresponding Author: Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan, UHB2C490, SPC 5010, 1500 E Medical Center Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5010 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Accepted for Publication: April 16, 2019.
Published Online: July 18, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.1864
Author Contributions: Drs Jagsi and Griffith had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Study concept and design: Knoll, Griffith, Jagsi.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.
Drafting of the manuscript: Knoll, Griffith, Jagsi.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.
Statistical analysis: Griffith.
Obtained funding: Knoll, Jagsi.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Knoll, Jones.
Study supervision: Knoll, Jagsi.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Jagsi reported grants from NIH, grants from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, grants from Susan Komen Foundation, grants and personal fees from Greenwall Foundation, grants from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for the Michigan Radiation Oncology Quality Consortium, personal fees from Amgen, personal fees from Vizient, personal fees from Sherinian and Hasso law firm, and other from Equity Quotient outside the submitted work. Dr Jagsi serves on the board of directors of ASCO and as vice chair of the ethics committee of ASTRO. This work is entirely separate from those roles. No other disclosures were reported.
J. Understanding motivations, inhibitors, and facilitators of association members in attending international conferences. Journal of Convention & Exhibition Management
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