How have the demographic characteristics of female ophthalmology residency applicants, residents, and medical school clinical faculty changed in recent years?
In this cross-sectional study, the percentage of women in the field of ophthalmology across all levels of training remained lower than that of the general population. Most notably, the percentage of female residents has been decreasing since 2011.
This study provides evidence that the underrepresentation of women in the field of ophthalmology extends from trainees to faculty; more efforts are needed to remedy this disparity.
The proportion of women in the field of ophthalmology in the US trails the proportion of women in the general population. Sex diversity trends have been studied in other specialties, but there is a dearth of such literature in ophthalmology.
To investigate trends in the proportion of female ophthalmology match applicants, residents, and clinical faculty.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This cross-sectional study examined data from the San Francisco Match, the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Association of American Medical Colleges, and American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2019. Data from ophthalmology match applicants, residents, clinical faculty at US medical schools, and AAO members were collected.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The proportion of female applicants, residents, and medical school clinical faculty in ophthalmology.
Data were obtained from a total of 2807 ophthalmology applicants (35.3% female), 1 004 563 residents (43.8% female), 463 079 clinical faculty members (42.5% female), and 78 968 AAO members (26.1% female). Male ophthalmology residency applicants outnumbered female applicants by a ratio of 1.6:1 from 2016 to 2019. The percentage of female matched applicants in 2016 (41% [168/406]) and 2019 (42% [184/436]) differed by 1% (percent change, 0.99; 95% CI, −1.12 to 3.1; P = .36). There was a 2.3% increase (percent change, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.24-0.43; P < .001) in the percentage of female residents across all surgical specialties from 2011 (39.7% [8710/21 985]) to 2019 (42% [10 951/26 082]) but a 2.5% decrease (percent change, −0.45; 95% CI, −0.84 to −0.06; P = .02) in the percentage of female residents in ophthalmology from 2011 (41.5% [589/1419]) to 2019 (39% [575/1473]). The percentage of female ophthalmology clinical faculty differed by 2% (percent change, 1.02; 95% CI, −0.21 to 2.24; P = .10) from 2017 (38% [1179/3102]) to 2019 (40% [1225/3060]). From 2016 to 2019, male practicing ophthalmologists in the AAO outnumbered female practicing ophthalmologists by a ratio of 3:1.
Conclusions and Relevance
This study found that the percentage of women in the field of ophthalmology remains lower than percentages in other specialties, and the percentage of female ophthalmology residents has decreased in recent years. More efforts are needed to improve female representation in ophthalmology.
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Aguwa UT, Srikumaran D, Green LK, et al. Analysis of Sex Diversity Trends Among Ophthalmology Match Applicants, Residents, and Clinical Faculty. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online September 23, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2021.3729
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