Practice patterns of female cardiothoracic surgeons older than age 58 years: Are we making progress?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The Journal of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery




cardiothoracic surgery; education; gender disparity


OBJECTIVE: Women remain a small minority of cardiothoracic surgeons, and within adult cardiac surgery, the gender gap widens. This study examines the career pathway and trajectory of female adult cardiac surgeons. METHODS: Female cardiothoracic surgeons were identified from the American Board of Thoracic Surgery diplomates over 58 years. Publicly available information was obtained to determine years in practice, practice type, academic and leadership title(s), and location of practice. RESULTS: The average number of years in practice for female adult cardiac surgeons was 13.1. Those categorized as adult cardiac surgeons composed 25.4% (n = 90) of all female cardiothoracic diplomates and 134 (37.9%) were categorized as other subspecialty practice. Of the adult cardiac surgeons, 33.3% (n = 30) practiced privately and the remainder in academic practice. Academic titles were held by 47.8% (43 out of 90) and 30% (27 out of 90) held a position of leadership. Of those in academic practice, 25% (11 out of 42) are titled professor, whereas 43% (18 out of 42) are assistant professors. Most commonly, those in positions of leadership held the title "director," which reflects 37% (10 out of 27) of individuals. Practice locations were distributed throughout the United States, with the highest number in the northeast (26.7%). CONCLUSIONS: Only a small portion of female cardiothoracic surgeons pursue a career in adult cardiac surgery compared to their male counterparts. From 1999 to 2009, 1300 individuals were board certified cardiothoracic surgeons, of whom only 103 (7.9%) were female. Of these, the majority of female cardiothoracic surgeons entered academic practice. Although the overall number of practicing female adult cardiac surgeons has increased with a growth rate of 10.7%, this number remains extremely low. A discrepancy remains between gender representation of academic titles and leadership positions. Although the field has increased female representation over the past few decades, work remains to ensure all potential talent is encouraged and supported.


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