Implicit gender bias present in surgical field, study finds

Implicit bias is still present among many healthcare professionals, with clinicians commonly associating female physicians with family medicine and male physicians with surgery, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

For the study, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis looked at healthcare professionals' responses to the Implicit Association Test. The test measures implicit bias by asking healthcare professionals to rapidly sort words into categories related to gender and career trajectory. Researchers reviewed nearly 1 million test results from 2006-17.

Healthcare professionals strongly associated men with career-related words and women with family-related words. The 131 surgeons involved in the study also associated male physicians with surgery and female physicians with family medicine.

"Awareness of the existence of implicit biases is an important first step toward minimizing their potential effect," researchers concluded.

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