A search of residency programs in the United States found that women made up about a quarter of all academic vitreoretinal specialists.
According to a study published in Cureus, the field of vitreoretinal surgery had fewer women overall and less female representation among those producing publications with scholarly impact. The study also found that full professors in the field were more likely to be men.
Women comprise about 25% of all ophthalmologists and 29.6% of all academic ophthalmology faculty in the United States. Prior research indicates that vitreoretinal surgery has the lowest percentage of women among all ophthalmological specialties, at 19%. The current study aimed to “investigate gender differences among vitreoretinal specialists in the United States with respect to academic rank and publication productivity.”
A total of 116 ophthalmology residency programs in the United States that participated in the 2022 San Francisco Match were included in the study. Institutional websites were used to collect data on gender, scholarly impact or publication number, and academic rank of all vitreoretinal faculty. Faculty were excluded if their academic rank could not be determined.
Scholarly activity was evaluated by looking for the faculty member through the search function of PubMed using their first and last name; the number of peer-reviewed publications was recorded for each person. The Scopus database was used to confirm the number of publications that the author had and also collect their h-index, of which a higher score indicated higher academic rank. All data were collected in Microsoft Excel 2016 and a binary logistic regression model was performed.
There were 467 academic vitreoretinal specialists that were identified across the United States, of whon 345 (73.9%) were men and 122 (26.1%) were women. The mean number of publications was also different between men and women, at 90.5 publications for men and 52.5 for women.
The researchers found that there were a total of 164 assistant professors in vitreoretinal surgery, of whom 106 (64.6%) were men and 58 (35.4%) were women. Men had a higher mean (SD) of publications (27.6 [3.9]) compared with women (20.9 [2.9]) at the assistant professor level.
There are a total of 118 academic vitreoretinal specialists who are associate professors, of whom 88 (74.6%) were men and 30 (25.4%) were women. The mean (SD) publication numbers for associate professors were 71.6 (7.7) for men and 55.3 (8.9) for women. There were also 185 academic vitreoretinal specialists who worked as full professors, of whom 151 (81.7%) were men and 34 (18.3%) were women. Men had more mean (SD) publications (138.1 [10.3]) compared with women (103.7 [11.9]).
Men were also found to have a higher mean (SD) publication productivity h-index score (15.2 [0.82]) compared with women (12.8 [0.99]).
This study heavily relied on the availability of information online, which could not be confirmed for accuracy. It is possible that alternative names, such as a maiden name, were not accounted for when looking through the PubMed and Scopus databases. An assigned gender was given based on photographs, pronouns, and names, which may have led to misassigning gender. This study also only focused on academic vitreoretinal specialty and did not account for private practice.
The researchers concluded that the vitreoretinal specialty in ophthalmology has “significantly fewer women compared [with] men.” Men were found to have published more peer-reviewed papers and occupy higher academic positions in this specialty compared with women.
Oncel D, Syal S, Oncel D, Reyes NA, Acikalin B. Gender disparities among academic vitreoretinal specialists in the United States with regard to scholarly impact and academic rank. Cureus. Published online June 4, 2023. doi:10.7759/cureus.39936