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U Healthcare Leaders Call for Gender Equality

Andrea Smardon
University of Utah Health Care CEO Vivian Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A

Healthcare leaders at the University of Utah are calling attention to gender inequality in the academic medical field. An editorial co-authored by two female officials from University Health Sciences was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The editorialwas written by pediatrics professor Carrie Byington and University Health Sciences senior vice president Vivian Lee. It was published in tandem with two research papers showing women are more likely to have lower faculty rankings and smaller salary start-up packages than men. Lee says she was not surprised that women were substantially less likely than men to be full professors.

“I see that of course at our annual meetings of all the deans of medical schools; fewer than 20 percent of the deans are women. Whereas, we just did our white coat ceremony; 40 to 50 percent of our medical students are women,” Lee says. “So I know that there is significant loss of women in our talent pool as you go to higher levels.”

But Lee feels that the University of Utah has been making some progress in shifting the culture. She says the university has been training search committee members in unconscious bias. They’re standardizing interview questions and offer letters, analyzing salaries every year, and developing mentorship programs for junior faculty. Lee says she herself would not have the leadership position she has today without strong mentorship. She says she hopes these articles will start discussions among healthcare leaders around the country.

“I hope that they view them as a call to action, and particularly a recognition on the part of leaders like me that while there may be things we’ve inherited from the past, there’s certainly really promising solutions,” Lee says, but as she says in her editorial, the first step is to acknowledge that the system is not working effectively.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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