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SheMD JC: Paid Family and Childbearing Leave Policies at Top US Medical Schools

Here at sheMD, we believe in the importance of practicing Evidence-Based Medicine. We believe the same principles apply to discussing Gender and Medical Education. Therefore, we are bringing you an entire Journal Club series! Our series will focus on foundational and new literature within the gender and medicine space.

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Article Link:



Why is this article important?

  • There is a shortage of female physicians in academic medicine, which may be contributed to by differences in work-life balance and child rearing.

  • Childbearing leave policies at academic medical institutions may have an impact on gender differences in faculty retention.

  • Retaining women during childbearing years is central to gender parity, as even short workforce interruptions can have long-term consequences—and may partially explain the gender wage gap.


Article Summary

What they looked at:

-12 top United States medical schools were reviewed for institutional policies on childbearing leave between September 2016 and August 2017.


How they measured things:

  • Information was collected on leave duration, salary support, policy wording and clarity, and constraints.



What were their outcomes:

  • 8.6 weeks was the mean amount of paid leave (range 6-16), with 3 of the 12 schools providing paid leave greater than 8 weeks.

  • 17.9 weeks was the mean amount of total family leave (range 2-52).

  • Most policies had constraints, such as being the primary caregiver. The language was often vague, such as when referring to whom the leave could apply.


Why do we care about this article?

What does this mean?

  • 12 weeks is the amount of paid family leave endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as having a scientific benefit to the child, but the average amount of time currently provided is significantly less at most institutions.

How does this apply to us?

  • Factors affecting retention of female faculty in academic medicine need to be continually studied and addressed, including family leave, childcare availability, parenting responsibilities, and work life balance.



Take Home Point

  • Restricting family leave is potentially contributing to the attrition of women in academic medicine.


Similar Articles

  • For further reading on the topic, check out these articles!

  • Magudia K, Bick A, Cohen J, Ng TSC, Weinstein D, Mangurian C, Jagsi R. Childbearing and Family Leave Policies for Resident Physicians at Top Training Institutions. JAMA. 2018 Dec 11;320(22):2372-2374. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.14414. PMID: 30535210; PMCID: PMC6583066.

  • Lee LK, Miller KA, Chuersanga G, Melvin P, Zola J, Ward VL. Childbearing and Family Leave Policies for Physicians at US Children's Hospitals. J Pediatr. 2022 Dec 14:S0022-3476(22)01125-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2022.12.008. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36528054.

  • Rangel EL, Smink DS, Castillo-Angeles M, Kwakye G, Changala M, Haider AH, Doherty GM. Pregnancy and Motherhood During Surgical Training. JAMA Surg. 2018 Jul 1;153(7):644-652. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2018.0153. PMID: 29562068; PMCID: PMC5875346.


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