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2019 ASCO: Discrimination, Gender Bias in Oncology Training and Professional Meetings

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Key Points

  • Incidents of discrimination toward fellows were common, and they reported experiencing more discriminatory incidents from patients than staff.
  • “Discrimination from patients was most [commonly reported as being] based upon accent and race, but also was reported based on gender, ethnicity, and being perceived as ‘other’,” said study authors.
  • During the 2017 and 2018 ASCO Annual Meetings, women were less likely to receive a professional form of address and more likely to be introduced by first name only.
  • Men who introduced speakers were more likely to introduce women by first name only.

Two studies that explored types of discrimination and gender bias in health-care organizations were presented at the 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting.

Discrimination Experienced by Fellows

An abstract that reviewed discrimination and inclusion among hematology and oncology trainees was presented by Warsame et al (Abstract 10530). The study involved anonymous telephone interviews with 17 hematology and oncology fellows—six Asian, two Black, two multiracial, four white, and three Hispanic/Latino—regarding discrimination, harassment, and inclusion. According to the study, incidents of discrimination toward fellows were common, and they reported experiencing more discriminatory incidents from patients (n = 41) than staff (n = 12).

“Discrimination from patients was most [commonly reported as being] based upon accent and race, but also was reported based on gender, ethnicity, and being perceived as ‘other’,” said first author Rahma Warsame, MD, a hematologist at the Mayo Clinic. Trainees said that having diverse colleagues and supportive programs and being involved in organizational leadership were helpful to promote inclusivity.

Gender Bias in Speaker Introductions

The second study, presented by Duma et al (Abstract 10503), looked at speaker introductions and how professional titles have been used at past ASCO Annual Meetings.

“Gender bias can be reinforced through the use of gender-subordinating language and differences in forms of address,” explained first author Narjust Duma, MD, Chief Hematology/Oncology Fellow at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester.

The study reviewed 781 presentations from the 2017 and 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting video archives, and found that women were less likely to receive a professional form of address (61% of women vs 81% of men) and more likely to be introduced by first name only (17% of women vs 3% of men). Men who introduced speakers were more likely to introduce women by first name only (24%). Women who introduced speakers were more likely to introduce speakers by their professional title, regardless of gender.

“Our results suggest that unconscious bias may be present and be a driver of gender disparities in medicine,” said Dr. Duma.

Disclosures: For full disclosures of the authors, click here for the first study and here for the second study.

 

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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