Racial, Gender Disparities Seen in Surgery Board Certification

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , May 1, 2012

The study examined the records of 3,373 medical school graduates from 1997 to 2002 who at the time of graduation, stated their intention to become board certified in surgery and entered general surgery training.


Andriole and coauthor Donna B. Jeffe tracked these physicians through July 2009 to see if they had achieved their goal. The researchers found that 60% of the graduates in the study achieved American Board of Surgery certification, 10% were certified by another American Board of Medical Specialties-member board, and the remaining 30% weren’t certified by any ABMS member board.

"It is not so much an issue of whether surgery is attracting women, but that the women they do attract are less likely to be retained. The same is true for graduates of non-white race or ethnicity," Andriole says.

Among graduates who remained in the surgery workforce, women, Asian/Pacific Islander graduates, and graduates from racial/ethnic groups historically underrepresented in medicine were more likely to be non-board certified, as were graduates who had initially failed Step l or Step 2 of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination sequence, the report said.

Jeffe said that physicians who are not board certified often become marginalized. "They may not be able to access the same quality of medical services for their patients as can board-certified physicians," Jeffe said in prepared remarks. "Many practicing physicians from underrepresented groups in medicine provide care for other underrepresented or disadvantaged populations, so this speaks to the disparities in health outcomes for their patients as well."

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