Part two of a three-part series exploring issues affecting the otolaryngology workforce
Explore this issue:March 2010
Diana C. Ponsky, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology-facial plastic and reconstructive surgery at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, went to medical school wanting to be a pediatrician. She happened upon otolaryngology “by accident, by scrubbing into a very fascinating cancer case. I was hooked,” she now recalls.
Dr. Ponsky is among a minority of women in the specialty. Compared to the burgeoning of women medical school graduates (who comprised 50 percent of last year’s matriculating classes, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges [AAMC]), the representation of women in otolaryngology has been more incremental. Still, the number of women in otolaryngology is “growing in a meaningful way,” said Carol R. Bradford, MD, FACS, professor and chair of otolaryngology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In fact, while only 8 percent of residents entering otolaryngology in 1980 were women, that number nearly doubled in 1993—to 15.7 percent—and rose to 21 percent in 2003 (Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2006;14(3):159-63). Figures from AAMC’s 2008 Physician Specialty Data show the percentage of female otolaryngology residents and fellows at 27 percent.
Like other residency programs, the department of otolaryngology at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, where Myles Pensak, MD, FACS, is H.B. Broidy Professor and Chair, has seen an increase in the number of women applicants, and has increasingly ranked more women in their top 10 residency choices per year.
Still, Dr. Pensak and others agree that new strategies could help academic and private practices incorporate more women into the otolaryngology workforce.
—Gayle E. Woodson, MD
Exposure to the Specialty
Encouraging the best otolaryngology candidates requires early involvement with medical students, said Katherine Kendall, MD, FACS, associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Minnesota. During a recent interview cycle for the UMN otolaryngology residency, applicants reported that they had been unaware of otolaryngology until their one-week rotations. At her institution, Dr. Kendall has urged the dean of the medical school program curriculum to allow surgeons to teach anatomy courses. This not only makes the courses more interesting but piques the interest of medical students in the surgical subspecialties.
Dr. Bradford addresses pipeline issues by ensuring that women from otolaryngology participate in medical students’ career seminars. She and Gayle E. Woodson, MD, professor and chair of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, both members of the Women in Otolaryngology Committee of the AAO-HNS, often present in panels at annual AAO-HNS meetings.