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The certification of women in internal medicine and its subspecialties.


Hess BJ. — Hess Consulting

Duhigg L, Lipner RS. — American Board of Internal Medicine

Presented: American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, April 2014

Objective: To examine longitudinally the proportion of women among physicians certified in internal medicine (IM) and each of its subspecialties, as well as their performance on their first attempt of the certification examinations.

Method: IM and subspecialty certification data from 1990 to 2012 were obtained from the American Board of Internal Medicine database, including physicians’ pass rates on their first attempt of each certification examination. The Cochran-Armitage test was used to assess the change in the proportion of women among physicians certified over time. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to assess pass rate differences between men and women over time, controlling for physician characteristics.

Results: In the early 1990s, fewer than 30% of physicians certified in IM were women compared with 45% in the early 2010s (p < 0.001). Women were more likely to pass the IM certification examination on the first attempt than men over time (adjusted OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.11−1.19). For non-procedural subspecialties (e.g., endocrinology), there was a greater increase in the proportion of certified physicians who were women over time compared with procedural subspecialties (e.g., cardiology). Sex differences in pass rates varied across subspecialties.

Conclusion: Understanding sex differences in career choice and ability provides important information needed to plan educational programs, set funding priorities and plan for the provision of adequate health care. For procedural subspecialties, it is important to identify aspects of the work or culture of the subspecialty that influence women’s career decisions.

For more information about this presentation, please contact Research@abim.org.