To the Editor:
In agreement with the Statistical Bulletin of the Rosario National University, medical career, perceived as a "masculine" one1, experienced during the 90's a remarkable increase in the feminine matriculation (from 50% to 60%). This increase reached 70% at the end of 2008 and still endures. Mostly, this matches up with what happened in many Latin American and European countries2-5.
Following Reichenbach and Brown's proposal6 about the need of more evidence related with gender and academic medicine and basing upon former personal communications7-9, we carried out a triennial quantitative and qualitative analysis, ethically framed, in two medical schools (one, belonging to our University and the other, to the Litoral National University) (2005-2008). It intended to begin the investigation of the possible reasons underlying in this increasing phenomenon. Basically, we applied a toll to 22% and 15% of the total admitted masculine and feminine students (n= 510). Complementarily, 25 women and 25 men, selected from a population of 200 tolled students, were interviewed. This selection obeyed to specific guidelines for a more rich, valid and reliable registration10-12.
Quantitative data evidenced a similar percentage of women and men (85% ± 5%) in relation with the first time that most participants thought of becoming a physician (15 years) and when they made a firm decision on it (17 years). This revealed a quite short deliberative period. In this decision, women disclosed not only a significantly higher influence received from parents, close friends and mass media when compared with men (p<0.01) but a higher attraction for Biology as the main reason for choosing Medicine (p<0.01).
In contrast with men, women did not give any relevance either to the social status of Medicine or to its potential condition of independent profession. Approximately, 94% of women and men perceived Medicine as their only self-satisfying career in professional life and consequently referred no previous university studies.
Qualitatively, women looked like believing themselves able to cope with all kind of challenges demanding Medicine, feeling themselves equal to, and still more capable than men of facing difficult endeavors and succeeding in such attempt. Likewise, they expected medical career as allowing a quick and well-matched working option and felt that Medicine kept being attractive by offering a wide range of specialties, gave proper access to different functions and provided personal autonomy, which rendered them independent from different life circumstances. Beyond the image women-mother, socially and culturally constructed in all the interviewed women, they seemed to visualize Medicine as allowing their simultaneous development as women, mothers and physicians. Furthermore, they envisaged the man-tailored Medicine as a challenge for reverting such status.
This preliminary report points out that beyond the non critic simplification supported by those convinced that men are searching more rentable ecologic niches considering medical "proletarization", worth deepening psychological, sociological and cultural reasons also exist13.
1. LaWanda W. Female faculty in male-dominated fields: Law, medicine, and engineering. New Directions for Higher Education 2008; 143:63-72
2. Boletines Estadísticos. Secretaría de Planeamiento. UNR. UNR Editora, Rosario, Argentina, 1991- 2008
3. Boletín Digital UNESCO IESALC Nº 119. Imagen sobre Participación femenina en la matrícula de Educación Superior Abril 2006 [vista 21 Marzo 2007]. Available from: http://www.iesalc.unesco.org.ve/images/PartFemMatricula.gif
4. Bickel J. Women in Academic Medicine. JAMWA 2000; 55: 10-3
5. De Angelis CD. Women in Academic Medicine: New insights. Same sad news BMJ 2000; 342: 425-27
6. Reichenbach L and Brown H. Gender and academic medicine: impacts on the health workforce. British Medical Journal 329: 792-795, 2004
7. D'Ottavio AE, Imperiale G, Villar IJ. Why Argentinian students studied Medicine then and now Academic Medicine 1997; 72: 833-34
8. LI Vago, LI Carrera, TE Tellez, AE D'Ottavio. Study of the decision making process for the medical career. Biocell 2003; 27: 227-28
9. Palermo AI. El acceso de las mujeres a la educación universitaria Revista Argentina de Sociología 2006; 4: 11-46
10. Strauss A. Qualitative analysis for social scientists. Cambridge UK University of Cambridge Press, 1987
11. Strauss A, Corbin J. Basics of qualitative research. Techniques and Procedures for developing Grounded Theory 2nd ed. Sage Publications, London, UK, 1998
12. Morse J. Qualitative research methods. Sage Publications; Beverly Hills:, US, 1994
13. Risberg G, Johansson EE, Harnberg K. A theoretical model for analyzing gender bias in Medicine. Int. J. Equity Health. August 2009; 8: 28 [vista 28 diciembre 2009]. Available from:: http://www.equityhealthj.com/ content/8/1/28
Alberto Enrique D'Ottavio
2000 Rosario (Santa Fe)
Email: aedottavio @ hotmail.com
Recibido 8 de mayo de 2010.
Publicado: 22 de Mayo de 2010