Military Medicine and the Academic Surgery Gender Gap

Kayleigh Herrick-Reynolds, Daniel Brooks, Gary Wind, Paula Jackson, Kerry Latham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Gender disparity in academic medicine has been well described in the civilian sector. This has not yet been evaluated in the military health system where hundreds of female surgeons are practicing. Military service limits factors such as part time work and control over time spent away from family, which are often cited as contributors to the pay and promotion gap in civilian academic medicine. The military has explicit policies to limit discrimination based on gender. Pay between men and women is equal as it is based on rank and time in rank. One would expect to see less disparity in promotion through the academic ranks for military female surgeons given this otherwise equal treatment. This has not previously been objectively tracked or reported. It is beneficial to characterize the military academic medicine gender gap and benchmark against national data to define the academic gender gap and lay the groundwork for future work to identify factors contributing to the observed difference. Material and Methods: This study was granted exemption from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) Internal Review Board (IRB). The Uniformed Services University (USU) Department of Surgery academic appointment list was reviewed to assess female representation in the categories of Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor, and Other. Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) and the US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) were assessed for total numbers of female surgeons on active duty, and numbers were compared with nationally published Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) data using a logistic regression model. Results: There was a higher proportion of women in academic positions in the civilian cohort than in the military cohort (OR: 1.84; CI: 1.53-2.21, p <. 0001). This difference was observed at every level of academic achievement. A higher percentage of women were observed at lower levels of professorship than at higher levels; instructors were more likely to be women than assistant professor (OR: 1.44, CI:1.16-1.79), associate professor (OR: 2.24, CI: 1.77-2.84), or full professor (OR:4.61, CI: 3.57-5.94). Conclusions: Fewer female surgeons in military medicine hold academic appointment when compared with their counterparts in civilian medicine. Similar to the civilian sector, military academic surgery also demonstrates less likelihood of female representation in higher academic stations. This discrepancy in representation follows a linear trend over the different ranks. This discrepancy has not been previously documented. The military offers a unique opportunity to study the issue of gender imbalance in academic promotion practices given its otherwise equal treatment of males and females. Additional studies will be necessary to understand uniformed female surgeons' barriers to academic advancement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-387
Number of pages5
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - 2 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic Surgery
  • Gender disparity
  • Military
  • Promotion


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