Sex Discrimination in Selection for Residency
Commentary by James Nuovo, MD It was midway through the school year, and the third-year medical students had been excused from their clerkship duties and classes to attend a residency fair at the medical school. Representatives from each of the teaching hospital's major medical departments were present to answer questions. Many of the spokespeople were faculty members who were excited to see medical students interested in their respective fields. Amanda, who was interested in cardiothoracic or
... rthopedic surgery, stopped in front of the surgery table and introduced herself to the program director. "Hi, Dr. Harrison. My name is Amanda Carter. My sister, Karen, did research with you when she was a medical student." Dr. Harrison remembered her sister well and asked how Karen was faring in her first year of surgery residency. After a couple of minutes updating him about Karen and expressing her own interest in surgery, Amanda went on to another table. After the conversation, Dr. Harrison turned to a colleague and confided, "I remember during the selection process, I was debating between Amanda's sister, Karen, and a male applicant. They were equally qualified, but I ranked Karen lower. Based on my experience and the numbers, women just don't stay in practice as long." Seeing his colleague frown over that statement, Dr. Harrison was quick to add, "Hey, it's not prejudice, it's a fact." Commentary The opinions expressed by Dr. Harrison in this case are offensive. They show a bias against a candidate for a residency position because of her sex, implying that it should play a role in how candidates are assessed. As with every other job, one of the guiding principles for hiring should be nondiscrimination. Specifically, all institutions should support equal opportunity and not judge candidates on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition, ancestry, marital status, age, or sexual orientation.