NIH Funding Across Surgical Specialties; How Do Women Fare?



      Much has been written about the under-representation of women in academic medicine. However, no study has comprehensively described the gender-based trends of National Institutes of Health funding across surgical specialties; this study provides such an overview.


      We queried a previously created database to identify both male and female National Institutes of Health-funded surgeons. Surgical specialties and subspecialties were determined based upon formal training. Total grant costs and average costs per R01 and K grant were calculated and compared. Bivariate χ2 analyses were performed using population totals.


      In 2020, the specialties with the highest proportion of National Institutes of Health-funded female surgeon-scientists were obstetrics and gynecology (57%) and vascular surgery (40%). The general surgery subspecialties with the highest proportion of women were breast (85%), endocrine (58%), and colorectal surgery (40%). An analysis of total grant costs in 2020 revealed that in most specialties, the proportion of funding held by women was substantially less than the proportion of women investigators. In obstetrics and gynecology, women comprised 57% of surgeons, but held only 46% of the funding. Similarly, in breast surgery, women comprised 85% of surgeons, but held only 45% of the funding. Women and men had similar changes in the average total cost per R01 and K grant awarded from 2010 to 2020. In 2020, women were awarded less than men per R01 grant in general, otolaryngology, plastic and reconstructive, urology, and vascular surgery.


      Although female surgeon-scientists have made significant advances in some surgical specialties, they continue to lag in others. An in-depth analysis of the factors contributing to these trends is necessary to achieve gender parity across all academic surgical specialties.
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