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General Thoracic-Miscellaneous

Survey: Women CT Surgeons Report Job Satisfaction

By: By Mark S. Lesney, Frontline Medical Communications |


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Women in CT Surgery

Survey from page 1

Overall, 64% of respondents reported that they were always or almost always satisfied with their profession.

Women represent a minority of cardiothoracic surgeons in the United States, with roughly equal numbers being found in academic and private practice, according to a recent survey presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Thoracic Surgeons.

Overall, these women reported a high level of job satisfaction and the vast majority of them were still in practice.

Although there were comparatively few women in senior staff and faculty positions, in part because over 50% of women currently in practice entered the profession since the year 2000, "this exponential increase in the number of women in the field over the past ten years provides optimism for a continued recruitment," according to the report by Dr. Jessica S. Donington, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at New York University, New York, N.Y.,and her colleagues on behalf of The Women in Thoracic Surgery (WTS).

The WTS was established as a professional organization in 1986, with the designated mission of providing mutual support and facilitating the professional advancement of women in cardiothoracic surgery.

With 2011 being the 50th anniversary of the first certification of a woman by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery (ABTS) and the year in which the 200th female was certified by the ABTS, the WTS deemed it important to survey the status of female cardiothoracic surgeons in the United States.

Dr. Donington

The WTS survey was designed to measure career progression and to provide insights in order to improve recruitment. All ABTS-certified women were surveyed anonymously in December 2010 using tools from, according to Dr. Donington.

Contact information was obtained from CTSNet, Google, and institutions of known employment.

Of the 204 living women with ABTS certification, 190 were contacted. Of these, 64% responded to the survey. The questions comprised five areas: demographics, training, practice activities, activities of non-practicing CT surgeons, and career satisfaction.

The researchers grouped the respondents by year of certification: Group 1 (1961-1999) and Group 2 (2000-2010). They used the STS/AATS 2009 practice survey of the entire thoracic surgery workforce in order to make broad-based comparisons.

The mean age of the women respondents was 48 years, with the majority being white (nearly 78%) and urban dwellers (61%).

Half of the women were certified within the past 10 years. Overall, the respondents had been practicing for a mean of 8 years, worked in groups of 2-10 surgeons, and were the only female surgeon in their group. The respondents had a mean of 9.1 years of training with 56% reporting non-Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) training time.

There was a significant increase in the duration of training and in the resultant debt over time. Group 1 respondents reported training for 8.5 years vs. 9.5 years in Group 2, with a doubling of graduates with educational debt greater than $100,000 in the later era.

Overall, the distribution of 118 respondents who answered the subspecialty question was 28% adult cardiac; 8.5% congenital cardiac; slightly less than 1% cardiopulmonary transplant; and 13.2% mixed subspecialties.

The 35.6% percent of women who identified themselves as general thoracic surgeons is higher than the 18% reported by the entire thoracic surgery workforce, with the percentage of women who identified themselves as general thoracic surgeons more than doubling in the second cohort of diplomates as compared with the first.

Slightly over 10% of respondents were no longer in CT surgery practice. All of these were certified prior to 2000, and the majority left practice due to retirement, health issues, or career advancement, according to their responses.

There was a large shift from the mixed category, which was cited by nearly 28% of the 51 women certified prior to 2000, compared with 3% of the 67 women certified after 2000.

This could be accounted for primarily by large increases in the adult cardiac (from nearly 20% prior to 2000 compared with 34% after 2000) and the general thoracic (from around 22% to 46%) subspecialty categories, reflecting the increase in subspecialization of our field.

Half of the women who responded had academic appointments, with 52% of these at the assistant professor level and 20% at the professor level. A minority of the women (20%) had protected research time, and 30% had secured research funding.

Overall, 64% of respondents reported that they were always or almost always satisfied with their profession.

The greatest source of dissatisfaction reported by both groups was demands on time, with workplace politics being a key concern expressed by Group 1 respondents, and lack of support a key concern expressed by Group 2.

Eighty percent of those polled stated that, if given the opportunity to choose a profession based on what they knew now, they would pursue cardiothoracic surgery again.

"Women still represent a minority of cardiothoracic surgeons in the United States, and over half are still very junior, having entered the profession since the year 2000.

Although the majority report being satisfied with their careers, and important academic milestones have been reached by some, there remains a scarcity of women in senior leadership positions.

"Since mentors and positive role models are consistently reported as significant factors in specialty decisions by surgical residents, this may still be the largest hurdle to recruiting women into cardiothoracic surgery," concluded Dr. Donington, in her presentation of the report.

Dr. Donington reported that she had no relevant financial disclosures.☐

Women in CT Surgery

Survey from page 1

Overall, 64% of respondents reported that they were always or almost always satisfied with their profession.

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