Study: Female residents value lifestyle more than financial factors when choosing a specialty

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) –  The work of an Indianapolis doctor is getting national spotlight in the journal JAMA internal medicine.

Dr. Mary Walsh of St. Vincent hospital authored the study which asks the questions: why do female residents choose certain specialties over others?

Dr. Walsh found that the type of specialty a woman is drawn to is more dependent on lifestyle factors rather than financial.

Despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, Dr. Walsh says cardiology growth among women doctors has been flat.

That’s despite more than 50% of medical students now being women.

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According to Dr. Walsh, women prefer specialties with long term patients, such as primary care. They also prefer less on-call time and a more accepting environment.

So how does this all affect patient care?

“Medicine changes when it’s more diverse. We take care of a diverse population in cardiovascular medicine and in all medicine, and so the more we can replicate the patient population that we serve, the better care we give. That’s been shown in multiple studies,” said Dr. Walsh.

Dr. Walsh, who served as the President of the American College of Cardiology in 2017, says there have been efforts made to increase the number of women in cardiology.

“When we have few women cardiologists, residents aren’t exposed to cardiology mentors. Making sure we have women representation in hospitals, conferences, and guest speakers in universities is critical,” Dr. Walsh said.

She also adds that once male dominated specialties like general surgery have moved to a shift schedule in an effort to reduce long hours.

Perhaps, that strategy could be next for cardiology.

But before it can be, Dr. Walsh says more research needs to be done to take a deeper dive into residents and their decisions to help make health care more diverse and better for patients.