A qualitative study of gender differences in the experiences of general surgery trainees

Sara P. Myers, Katherine A. Hill, Kristina J. Nicholson, Matthew D. Neal, Megan E. Hamm, Galen E. Switzer, Leslie R.M. Hausmann, Giselle G. Hamad, Matthew R. Rosengart, Eliza B. Littleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Background: Women surgeons continue to face unique challenges to professional advancement. Higher attrition rates and lower confidence among female surgical residents suggest that experiences during residency differ by gender. Few studies have investigated gender-specific experiences during training. This study identifies gender-based differences in the experiences of general surgery residents that could affect professional development. Materials and methods: Male and female general surgery residents at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center participated in a semi-structured interview study exploring the significance of gender in training. Recurring themes were identified from transcribed interviews using inductive methods. Two individuals independently coded interviews. Themes were compared for male and female residents. Certain themes arose with greater frequency in reference to one gender over the other. Results: Twenty-four male and eighteen female residents participated (87.5%) in the study. Fewer female residents self-identified as a “surgeon” (11.1% versus 37.5%, P < 0.001). Residents felt that patients and physicians more frequently disregarded female residents’ professional role (P < 0.001). Female residents also more often mentioned perceiving aggressive behaviors from attendings and support staff (9% versus 1% and 10% versus 3%, respectively). Relative to men, women more often mentioned lack of mentorship (0% versus 8%), discomfort (4% versus 8%), feeling pressured to participate in unprofessional behaviors (2% versus 5%), and having difficulty completing tasks (5% versus 10%, P < 0.001). Conclusions: Women experience gender-based challenges during surgical training. Further investigation is needed to determine how these experiences affect professional development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-134
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Gender
  • General surgery residency
  • Professional identity
  • Self-concept


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