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Sexist, Racial Microaggressions Prevalent Among Surgeons

THURSDAY, March 25, 2021 -- Sexist and racial/ethnic microaggressions against female and minority surgeons and anesthesiologists are prevalent and linked to burnout, according to a study published online March 24 in JAMA Surgery.

Neha T. Sudol, M.D., from the Southern California Permanente Medical Group in Irvine, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional survey to examine microaggressions and physician burnout within a cohort of surgeons and anesthesiologists. Data were analyzed for 588 individuals (249 women; 367 racial/ethnic minority).

The researchers found that 94 percent of the female respondents experienced sexist microaggressions, most often overhearing or seeing degrading female terms or images. Eighty-one percent of racial/ethnic-minority physicians experienced racial/ethnic microaggressions and most commonly reported few leaders or coworkers of the same race/ethnicity. The prevalence of physician burnout was 47 percent overall and was higher among women and among racial/ethnic-minority physicians (odds ratios, 1.60 and 2.08, respectively). Higher odds of burnout were reported for female physicians who reported sexist microaggressions (racial/ethnic-minority female physicians: odds ratio, 1.84; White female physicians: odds ratio, 1.99). Burnout was also more likely for racial/ethnic-minority female physicians who experienced racial microaggressions (odds ratio, 1.86). The likelihood of burnout was higher for racial/ethnic-minority female physicians who had the compound experience of sexist and racial/ethnic microaggressions (odds ratio, 2.05).

"These findings highlight the gaps in empathy and compassion within the medical community and society at large," the authors write.

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