August 28, 2020 2:45 PM

Gender a Key Factor in Who Holds Endowed Chair Honors in Medicine

Women professors of medicine were significantly less likely than men to hold an endowed chair position, even when factoring in qualifications and experience.

stethoscope drawing in blue ink on lined notepad paper
Image: Stephanie King

Senior-ranked women at top-tier medical schools were less likely than their male peers to hold endowed chairs, one of the most distinguished roles in a university setting, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at endowed chairs and full professors from the departments of medicine at top medical schools. They created a statistical model to determine whether gender was independently associated with holding an endowed chair after controlling for qualifications and experience. Endowed chairs are funded through philanthropy to support individual physicians.

Of 1,654 full professors in the sample, 25% held endowed chairs. Among that group, 19% were women. Women full professors were significantly less likely to hold endowed chairs than men, even after factoring in specialty, degree, publication citations, funding and when they graduated medical school, according to the study, which is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Endowed chairs in academic medicine aren’t just honors that elevate the stature of those who hold them. They come with funding that can support salary, novel research or staff for the chair holder,” says senior study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D. Phil., Newman Family Professor and deputy chair of radiation oncology at Michigan Medicine and director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan. 

“Gender inequities in everything from hiring to promotion to compensation have been documented in prior studies. The findings here are particularly worrisome because they suggest that even when women reach seniority in academic medicine, at the rank of full professor, they remain less likely than their similarly qualified male peers to receive the rewards, recognition and resources they merit.”

Paper cited: “Gender Differences in Endowed Chairs in Medicine at Top Schools,” JAMA Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2677