Melissa Bloodworth (G3) and Alex Sundermann (G1)
June 1, 2016

Women In Training Society


     Women comprise 40% of MD/PhD program graduates but only 20% of MD/PhD full professors/ NIH research program grant investigators.1 To halt this loss of talent and labor from the physician scientist workforce, we must prepare and support women for medical research careers from the very onset of the career pathway during training. Our MSTP has a robust history of actively recruiting incoming classes with equal representation of women and men. We are in a strong position to form an innovative group that will give our trainees, both women and men, essential experience in addressing the challenges facing women physician scientists today. The new Women in Training Society (WITS) is structured around the three most frequently cited reasons for why women remain underrepresented among physician scientists.2

     Recently, several institutes around the nation have acknowledged the challenges in allocating time to both career and family demands by establishing programs that leverage resources in order to increase work-life efficiency. Stanford’s “time banking” program rewards service-related work such as mentoring and serving on committees with credits to use for work or home-related services. After two years, “time banking” eliminated turnover and resulted in a 96% increase in female faculty who felt that Stanford supported their career development.3 Vanderbilt’s Doris Duke Partners program provides early career researchers who are also primary caregivers with funds for technical assistance.4 This program is modeled after MGH’s Claflin Distinguished Scholar Awards, which contributed to a 90% junior faculty retention rate.5  Similar to these programs, WITS’ work-life efficiency team will explore innovative solutions to the challenges women trainees face during MTSP training.  Contacts: Melissa Bloodworth, Alex Sundermann.

Unconscious bias was a focus of WITS’ inaugural meeting in January. Oftentimes, showing ambition is seen as an unattractive trait in women, and women are perceived as having less professional mobility. Men who call attention to the gender gap can be labeled as “social justice warriors.” What can be done about these cultural disadvantages? Both women and men can grow in situational awareness about these realities. Men can jump in when their female colleagues get interrupted and make sure that women receive fair credit.  Women can learn to use positive traits that are often attributed to females- such as nurturing- to their  advantage. WITS small groups meet to bring these and other topics (i.e. cultural values, personality types, gender differences in body language) to light on a quarterly basis. Contacts: Drs. Michelle Grundy, Sally York.

Mentorship. Studies show that women in science are underestimated in the classroom, are under preferred compared to men during hiring, and receive significantly smaller start up packages. 678 Women are often sought out to fill representative “female” positions, which can contribute to the development of imposter syndrome. WITS annual lectureship will invite women physician scientists to share how they have dealt with these and other challenges throughout their careers. Dr. Kimryn Rathmell will kick off this series at the spring 2016 PSSS. Discussions are also underway about an elective small group mentorship program during the PhD years. Contacts: Eileen Shiuan, J-N Gallant, Nick Harris.

1NIH. Physician-scientist Workforce (PSW) Working Group Report. NIH Web site. Updated June 1, 2014. Accessed April 5, 2016.

2Andrews., 2002 The other physician-scientist problem: Where have all the young girls gone? Nat Med 8(5):439-41

3Time in the bank: A Stanford plan to save doctors from burnout. The Washington Post Website. innovative-stanford- program-thats- saving-emergency-room-doctors- from-burnout/ Published August 20, 2015. Accessed April 5, 2016.

4Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists. and-Strategies/Build-the- Clinical-Research- Career-Ladder/Fund- to-Retain- Clinical-Scientists/. Accessed April 5, 2016.

5Jagsi et al., 2007. A targeted intervention for the career development of women in academic medicine. Arch Intern Med 167:343

6Grunspan et al., 2016 Males Under-Estimate Academic Performance of Their Female Peers in Undergraduate Biology Classrooms.  PLoS One 11(2):e0148405

7Williams et al., 2015 National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track. PNAS 112(17):

8Sage et al., 2015 Sex Differences in Institutional Support for Junior Biomedical Researchers. JAMA 314(11):1175-7