AMA principles will further gender equity among physicians

Kevin B. O'Reilly , Senior News Editor

The AMA House of Delegates has adopted a comprehensive set of principles on gender equity in medicine designed to address what an AMA Board of Trustees report calls “a complex, pervasive issue that requires a multilayered approach.”

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“The statistics on pay and leadership disparities in medicine are jarring, but sadly, unsurprising,” said AMA Board of Trustees Chair Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH. “Even as the number of women in medicine increases —and women now outnumber men as physicians-in-training—more must be done to spur change and eliminate the bias and discrimination that adversely affect women and, consequently, our profession.”

The newly adopted principles “are a step in the right direction for the AMA, women in medicine, and toward achieving our goal of improving the health of the nation.”

Some have argued that gender-based disparities in pay and professional advancement in medicine are driven by factors such as medical specialty, experience, productivity or work status.

But “researchers have found that these disparities persist even when studies control for age, specialty and practice characteristics,” says the trustees’ report whose recommendations were adopted at the 2019 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago. “Remaining disparities are attributed to a degree of gender discrimination and gender bias that can have a deleterious effect on the professional experiences of women and impact opportunities for advancement.”

In its newly adopted “Principles for Advancing Gender Equity in Medicine,” the AMA:

  • Declares it is opposed to any exploitation and discrimination in the workplace based on personal characteristics (i.e., gender).
  • Affirms the concept of equal rights for all physicians and that the concept of equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. Government or by any state on account of gender.
  • Endorses the principle of equal opportunity of employment and practice in the medical field.
  • Affirms its commitment to the full involvement of women in leadership roles throughout the federation, and encourages all components of the federation to vigorously continue their efforts to recruit women members into organized medicine.
  • Acknowledges that mentorship and sponsorship are integral components of one’s career advancement, and encourages physicians to engage in such activities declares that compensation should be equitable and based on demonstrated competencies or expertise and not based on personal characteristics.
  • Recognizes the importance of part-time work options, job sharing, flexible scheduling, reentry and contract negotiations as options for physicians to support work-life balance.
  • Affirms that transparency in pay scale and promotion criteria is necessary to promote gender equity, and as such academic medical centers, medical schools, hospitals, group practices and other physician employers should conduct periodic reviews of compensation and promotion rates by gender and evaluate protocols for advancement to determine whether the criteria are discriminatory.
  • Affirms that medical schools, institutions and professional associations should provide training on leadership development, contract and salary negotiations and career advancement strategies that include an analysis of the influence of gender in these skill areas.

In adopting the trustees’ report, delegates also directed the AMA to:

  • Encourage state and specialty societies, academic medical centers, medical schools, hospitals, group practices and other physician employers to adopt the AMA Principles for Advancing Gender Equity in Medicine.
  • Encourage academic medical centers, medical schools, hospitals, group practices and other physician employers to: adopt policies that prohibit harassment, discrimination and retaliation; provide anti-harassment training; and prescribe disciplinary or corrective action should violation of such policies occur.