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Is Surgery Male Dominated?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by instigata, Mar 5, 2007.

  1. instigata

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    Is surgery (in general) a male dominated field? I have shadowed a few surgeons, interviewed with about 4 of them and they have ALL been males. Not even ONE female.
     
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  3. Wanna_B_Scutty

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    Yes.

    It's probably the lifestyle thing that drives this. Many women shy away from Surgery because it'd be so hard to start and raise a family while working those crazy hours. I'd love to be a surgeon, and would be pursuing this residency if it offered a more reasonable lifestyle. However, I want to have a family and be a good Mom even more.
     
  4. akinf

    akinf Senior Member

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    Ummm...yes...medicine is male-dominated...but its getting better.
     
  5. theunremarkable

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  6. Dr. C. Troy

    Dr. C. Troy Member

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    Yes, but I really believe it's lifestyle.

    Surgery demands long hours, some of which can be at odd times.

    Generally, this is a lifestyle best-suited for men, whether or not we like to admit it in this PC-world of academia.
     
  7. instigata

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    It's just amazing that I haven't even seen 1 female surgeon. I mean I'm not at any hospitals very much, but with whatever medical experience I have had, I haven't bumped into one.
     
  8. stiffany

    stiffany Hurry up and wait...

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    I find this interesting since several of the surgeons I've shadowed have been female. In fact, the last time I shadowed my mentor (a female surgeon), three of her four residents were also female.

    Surgery is a more "acceptable" specialty for males because our society still says that women should be an integral part of a child's upbringing while men have an "option" to put the day to day reality of raising children on their significant others. In other countries where things like paternity leave and the like are just as well respected as maternity leave, you don't see that to the same extent (aka the Scandanavian countries). At the end of the day, it may be a choice that more men are comfortable making, but it doesn't have to be that way.

    Medicine has a history of being a white male sport, but the demographics are dramatically changing and in fact, today at least half if not more (it flip flops right around even each year) of med school matriculants are female. So, the demographics of specialties such as surgery are bound to change. For instance, when my mentor went through her surgery residency in the early 80's, she was only the second woman to go through it. Today you see lots of women across most if not all specialties.

    Also, if you're interested in reading about the female surgical perspective, "The Woman in the Surgeon's Body" by Joan Cassell is a great book. It's a bit dated (the field work for it is from the 90's although it was published in 2000) but it highlights what women surgeons undergo in their training and day to day interactions on and off the job, including expectations for women from their superiors and residents and trouble balancing anything alongside the surgery lifestyle.
     
  9. Instatewaiter

    Instatewaiter But... there's a troponin

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    As it stands over 85% of surgeons are male. In 2001 only about 5% of the people who belonged to ACS were female. While the numbers are changing since women make up 50% of the classes now ,there is still only a minor presence of female surgeons.

    Whether personal preference or lifestyle concerns women tend to shy away from it. Even though the numbers of women surgeons are ever increasing, about 2/3 of surgery residents are still male.
     
  10. Tired Pigeon

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    In some places surgery has a culture that seems like a cross between military boot camp and the college fraternity system. There is definitely a testosterone-ish vibe, and it is not surprising that some women might feel less than completely welcome in this type of environment.
     
  11. kdburton

    kdburton Ulnar Deviant

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    Theres quite a few (at least 4) female surgeons on the floor that I work on. Its organ transplant, so they are there all hours of the day depending on when cadaver-harvested organs show up for nonelective surgeries. As far as I know they are all married or dating, but I don't think any have children.
     
  12. Pansit

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    um...have u seen grey's anatomy...there are female surgeons all over that hospital...and that is just one sample. Think of all the other seattle grace's out there....;)
     
  13. instigata

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    :laugh:
     
  14. The Buff

    The Buff The Big Cat

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    a lot depends on if you count ob/gyn. they do surgeries, and there are lots of women in that speciality...
     
  15. FizbanZymogen

    FizbanZymogen Guitar Hero Champion

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    Stiffany,

    You make it sound as if all the surgery program directors are turning good women down simply becuase they are women (I'm sure this does happen occasionally but not exclusively). One of the major reasons why you don't see many women surgeons isn't becuase Men are turning them down saying, "You should be looking after your kids right now....." its because many women actively choose not to go into surgery because they want a more flexible lifestyle. I'm all for women's rights but please don't confuse the issue.
     
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  17. gary5

    gary5 Senior Member

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    Surgery is one of the least verbal specialties and women tend to be more verbal. So, looking forward, there will probably continue to be less women than men in surgery.
     
  18. gujuDoc

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    Yes. My opinion is that this is probably partially due to the decreasing interest in surgery due to its lack of a good lifestyle and its malignant high stress atmosphere. This is what I gather from reading blogs of people like the owner of med school hell blog and Panda's blog as well as a few others.

    My guess would be the fact that it isn't lifestyle friendly though and more often then not women are going to start families which means going through pregnancy and then having to work less hours to take care of the kids unless you get a stay at home husband or husband who will work less hours.

    I'd also guess that more men are into the whole idea of doing procedure based medicine. But that's just a guess from things i've read and seen about surgery. I also know those would be my reasons for not wanting to go into surgery. I'd rather deal with my patients when they are awake and do something which isn't too procedural like surgery or EM.
     
  19. Towelie

    Towelie Resident Towel

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    Surgeons are more sexist and degrading to women than construction workers are.
     
  20. gujuDoc

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    Wow both fizban and gary5 beat me to the punchlines.

    Again, as I and they stated:

    2 reasons:

    1. Bad bad bad lifestyle
    2. most women I know tend to be like me, more verbal and less for doing mechanical kind of work.

    I'd put my money on number one most though because today's culture is one in which there is an increase in both # of men and women are trying to seek the best lifestyle specialty rather then going into high demand fields which require long call hours. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard people knocking surgery especially because of its call hours and the malignant atmospheres. See different medical blogs and you'll see what I mean. Of all specialties they especially hate general surgery which is one of the fields that there is a shortage in.
     
  21. DropkickMurphy

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    Yes, men are often more attracted to surgery. Often those men are tools with some form of God complex.
     
  22. gujuDoc

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    Don't worry even other men think that way. Cough Panda and Hoover Cough
     
  23. sweet2th

    sweet2th ready to roll

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    I shadowed a sugery resident a few years ago and their attending was a woman. She swept into the room and beckoned her residents with high heels, makeup, and pearls. She commanded that OR. She was my hero.
     
  24. Trismegistus4

    Trismegistus4 Worried Wellologist
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    This is not quite true; although the ratio has asymptotically approached 50-50, there has never been a year in which more than half of matriculants have been female. There were two years recently in which the majority of applicants were female, but even in those years, >50% of acceptees and matriculants were male. Of course, those are national averages; some individual schools have had majority female classes.

    Furthermore, a virtual 50-50 ratio between women and men among medical school graduates does not guarantee there will be a large proportion of women in surgery. Women may continue to be attracted to pediatrics and OB/GYN in such numbers that the number of female medical graduates going into surgery continues to be small.
     
  25. NonTradMed

    NonTradMed Perpetual Student

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    The lifestyle is a killer thing for a lot of girls I've talked to,and it's not really residency that people focus on so much as the hours that you spent as an attending after residency.

    The thing is, society still puts the burden of 'family' on females, and girls are still raised with the idea of thinking about family responsiblities while guys, especially single guys, think of it a lot less. I've noticed this trend when I'm in school that the only guys who talk about 'balance' and finding a 'family friendly' speciality are guys who already have kids or who are in serious relationships, however, a whole lot more girls, single and nonsingles, think on this issue.

    However, I have to add that a family friend who is in surgery mentioned that there are alot more girls now than you'd think, at least in his residency. Also, I know two girls from college who are in surgery (one is neuro!). Only antedotal I know, but women in surgery still exists.
     
  26. stiffany

    stiffany Hurry up and wait...

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    Perhaps I wasn't clear in my post. I wasn't saying that you have male residency directors sitting there and going "Hmm, you should be at home with your kids." What I was saying is that our society still dictates that women should have a more active role in the lives of their children than men (Although the difference between personal choice differences among genders and more social norms is a gray line, I'll give you that). If this wasn't the case then it might seem strange that proportionally more men decide that they can have their ultra demanding career while still having children at home (seeing as how, otherwise, who's taking care of them aside from the nanny?) In any debate where the discussion of women choosing to stay home more often than men, I just like to bring up the fact that our society is still built to make that the more likely option. How often do you see ample paternity leave in this country, especially with pay? When my boss's wife delivered their latest baby (out of 3 under 5), he was away for four days. While partially a personal choice, the university I work for also doesn't have any sense of paternity leave or time off away from the tenure track for raising children like it does for women. So, I think it's just important to consider that, while some personal choices may be inherently gendered, not everything is set out as a clear cut personal preference. I wasn't saying there's blatant discrimination within the medical field "encouraging" women not to go into surgery, although I'm sure some of that still exists.
     
  27. univscience

    univscience Member

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    hmm :confused:
     
  28. stiffany

    stiffany Hurry up and wait...

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    Thanks for the correction - I guess men are still more successful in obtaining admission to medical school, so I stand corrected.

    I have hope that more women will go into surgery and I think the demographics ARE and will continue to change. That being said, I was not postulating that the split between males and females in surgery will be 50/50. Unless the 5-7 years of grueling training changes (unlikely) and schedule of a surgical attending becomes less demanding, women will still be encouraged by personal preference, their biological clock, and societal norms to spend more time at home to stay away from the surgery path.

    I think it would be interesting to see if the duty hours and if other training changes (like becoming more accepting of lifestyle considerations and non-traditional applicants) have had any impact on the make-up of people in more demanding residencies. I also wonder about how the make-up of gender changes depending on surgical specialty. Some subspecialties (such as breast surgery - which I think tends to involve less hours post training) attract inherently more women in part due to demand of female patients and also I'd imagine personal preference.
     
  29. PathOne

    PathOne Derminatrix

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    Exerpt from a piece from MSKCC when Murray Brennan retired as Chairman of Surgery:

    "In terms of regrets, he has only one. "Like many surgeons, I would say that I wish I had spent more time with my children, with whom I now have a good relationship, but who paid the price for my career. I've been extraordinarily privileged to look after patients who, under incredible adversity, have coped with life-threatening illnesses and indeed death. But there's also a price you pay as a surgeon. Still, to have lived differently I would have had to have been a different person.""

    I think that sums up surgery pretty nicely.

    http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/68625.cfm
     
  30. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    I am a female and I am senior surgery resident headed for fellowship. When I was a medical student, my first case on my surgery clerkship had a female attending, female senior resident, female junior resident and female medical student (me).

    If you visit my website, you will notice the pearls, which I am never seen in the OR without. It's the only way the nurses can tell me from the boys. ;)

    Yes, there are more males than females in surgery but there are a few of us around. Note Dr. Kimberli Cox, tussy and womansurg who post here on SDN. Also note that the current president of the American College of Surgeons is female as is the Chairman of Surgery at Hopkins. :thumbup:
     
  31. Timmythemic22

    Timmythemic22 Beep Beep Ribby Ribby

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    What a question. That's like asking is delicious-sandwich making a female dominated field. Of course it is!
     
  32. TleilaxuMD

    TleilaxuMD Banned
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    Surgery is one of the hardest specialties......of course it is male dominated.
     
  33. Trismegistus4

    Trismegistus4 Worried Wellologist
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    [​IMG]
     
  34. 45408

    45408 aw buddy

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    here come the flames
     
  35. Timmythemic22

    Timmythemic22 Beep Beep Ribby Ribby

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    FIRE! FIRE!

    [​IMG]
     
  36. gujuDoc

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    :laugh: :laugh:

    I don't know man, there are several really good cooks who are male, albeit that a certain percentage of them might be gay. But that's another issue altogether. :laugh: :laugh:
     
  37. Wanna_B_Scutty

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    I have to take exception to some of your comments, stiffany. The way you tell it, women who eschew Surgery because of the lifestyle demands are doing so because "society dictates it."

    Now I can't rule out the possibility that this sometimes happens. However, for me at least, I'm not staying away from Surgery because society is telling me to do so. Quite the opposite- I've actually been pressured to go into Surgery from several people I've met along the way. Rather, I'm choosing to stay away from Surgery because I honestly want to take on a reasonably large role in the lives of the kids I hope to have someday.

    The way you tell it, women who don't go into demanding specialties are being held down by "The Man." If only we were more liberated, we'd be free to slave away for 80+ hours a week! :rolleyes: I'm not buying it. My desire to be reasonably involved in the lives of my kids stems simply from my belief that spending time with them will personally bring me great happiness. That is all.

    And, for whatever it's worth, I suspect that I would feel exactly the same way if I were a man. I have personally met many men who are looking for specialties that would allow them to spend time with their families. Haven't you?
     
  38. FizbanZymogen

    FizbanZymogen Guitar Hero Champion

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    This is exactly what I was trying to say, but you said it so much more effectively.
     
  39. Wanna_B_Scutty

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    Thanks, Fiz. Truth be told, I'm getting a little tired of being told how oppressed I am by society. Oh, if only the strictures of the world would be loosened! Only then will I be free to spend my whole life working, separated from the people I love!

    Seriously, yo. Anyone who wants to be a workaholic Surgeon can be a workaholic Surgeon, whether they're male or female. However, that's one opportunity I'll be passing up on, thanks.
     
  40. stiffany

    stiffany Hurry up and wait...

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    Has anyone noticed that I'm saying society plays a role in this but is not the end all, be all? Apparently not. I already acknowledged the fact that some women will make a conscious and personal choice to go into less demanding fields in order to spend more time at home. What I'm objecting to is the idea that men intrinsically don't want to do the same (i.e. that it's totally their choice and that there aren't any barriers for them) and furthermore the idea that there's not an inkling of social shaping in the whole Suzie Homemaker construction of being a balanced woman (relative to the balanced life traits of your average joe). At the end of the day, several of the men I know with children who are balancing careers in academia with family life want to spend more time at home, but they can't due to the dictates of their career. Maybe more women are willing to have their career play second fiddle to their lifestyle/family choices than men, but at the end of the day you gotta wonder why this dichotomy exists.
     
  41. Instatewaiter

    Instatewaiter But... there's a troponin

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    The old nature vs nurture debate.

    You make it sound like women in medicine are opting to be doctors only part time. Realize that even the lightest specialties end up working 45-50h/week after residency. Hardly gives time to be a Suzie Homemaker.
     
  42. Wanna_B_Scutty

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    Why does the dichotomy exist? Honestly, I think it exists because, in this instance, more women are thinking through the long terms effects of the choices they make. And, as the quote from PathOne suggests, that's a good thing, not a bad or "inferior" thing.

    Frankly, I think the ladies who are looking down the road have it right over the men who don't. That is, I think men would be better served in their lives by making residency decisions like women stereotypically do, not the other way around. Thus, instead of encouraging women to go into more lifestyle-malignant specialities, I think medicine would be better served by restructuring itself so that the docs in all specialties can have healthy lives. Think about it: if all women and all men refused to go into such brutal specialties, those specialties would either be forced to restructure or else be forced to settle for the less quailfuied candidates that couldn't match into anything else. The ensuing restructuring would likely cut down the divorce, substance abuse, and early death rates that are so comparatively high amongst MDs.

    So in other words, yes, a dichotomy exists. But you know what? I'd say that the ladies have it right- not the gents. And by encouraging women to make choices like some men do, you'd be doing a disservice to both.
     
  43. stiffany

    stiffany Hurry up and wait...

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    I don't think there exists a "right" way to pursue an individual life path. I also wasn't advocating that everyone become slaves to their work and disregard life outside of medicine. I was simply asking people to consider their biases against men and the choices they make in light of the barriers they have towards spending more time at home relative to women AND the other things that go into the small number of women entering surgery fields besides simply individual personal choice. Neither gender should have to choose between an all work versus difficult to balance work/home demanding schedule.

    I love how you've portrayed my argument as both "women are repressed" and also that by choosing a different path "some women are inferior." I've actually said neither and for me to argue that women are inferior for choosing lifestyle over a particular specialty would be quite the interesting twist given my own background and gender.
     
  44. 45408

    45408 aw buddy

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    ever heard of PM&R? the PGY2 I know doesn't even work that much now.
     
  45. Wanna_B_Scutty

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    First of all, while I disagree with you, I'm hardly "bashing away."

    Rather, what does bother me about the "collective whole" of your prose is that I get the sense that you think it'd be better if more women went into specialties that are very lifestyle-demanding such as Surgery. That this would somehow represent freedom from society's norms and preconceptions.

    I fundamentally disagree with this premise, and believe that it would be better for both medicine in general and for doctors themselves if both women and men refused to go into specialties that are currently so lifestyle-demanding. You say that you don't believe that there can be "a 'right' way to pursue a life path." That may or may not be true, but I believe that there is certainly a wrong way to structure a medical specialty. I also believe that, in the case of many Surgical specialties, our current way is the wrong way.

    Instead, I think the solution is to insist on restructuring the specialties themselves in a way that would allow docs to lead healthier lives and would allow patients to have more well-rested docs. That, as far as I can tell, is our fundamental point of disagreement.
     
  46. stiffany

    stiffany Hurry up and wait...

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    Yep, I do think more women should go into specialties that are more lifestyle demanding. But, instead of doing so for the sake of some bleeding heart or "suck it up" notion (as I think you're suggesting), I think this should occur due to structural changes or societal changes that allow women and men to equally share home responsibilities or work through other things that deter women from entering these specialties more readily than men.

    I also think that the issue between men versus women in surgery and the problems with the lifestyle of surgery more generally are two separate points. I agree with you that surgery is an incredibly demanding specialty and that a lot of the BS that exists within it should be removed. Still, I think it'd be a huge disservice for patients if suddenly surgery residencies were empty. Instead, I think continual efforts like the duty hours and more discussions about balancing lifestyle and work that are actually meaningful need to continue to occur.

    My biggest point which I'll repeat is, anytime there's a large disparity in race, gender, religion, whatever surrounding certain decisions and choices, I think it's important to examine why said differences exist other than just some individual decision making that somehow clumps by demographic characteristics.
     
  47. Wanna_B_Scutty

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    Regarding the future of Surgery: In a weird way, I think we do agree on some level. Both of us would like to see the culture of Surgery change- we just have different ideas about how to do it. You hope to reform it from the inside, and I sincerely wish you every success. I, however, prefer to vote with my feet. In all honesty, I have a hard time believing that change will ever come out of the goodness of Surgery Programs' hearts. Ultimately, I'm probably more cynical about Surgeons than you are. Rather, I think that Surg Progs will have to experience a dearth of top applicants (a phenomenon which, I hear, they're already experiencing and fretting about) in order to be motivated to change their ways. I hope you're right, though, and that you can effect change from within. Truly, I do wish you the best of luck with this.

    Regarding specialization disparities: Yes, I do agree that professional disparities are always worth at least a second look. However, having considered this particular disparity, I have personally concluded that it is warranted. I think that docs, both women and men, are more likely to (1) have better quality of life, (2) be better docs when they're working and, (3) force changes in medicine by effectively "boycotting" certain specialties. This would lead to the dearth of top applicants as noted above, which should eventually force some policy-changes to win those applicants back. Thus, I don't think the ladies would be best served by following the male stereotype, but that the men would be best served by following the female stereotype on this issue. It is just as healthy for men to find a balance between their home life and their work life as it is for women!

    A few posts ago, you noted that women think about their work-life balance early, but that men don't think about it until they have relationships and/or family. In doing so, you imply that women should ignore these issues and make their decisions by using the same algorithm that men do. I say that men should be encouraged to think about this stuff early just like the women do. I truly believe that this would help those men, their future partners, and their children lead happier, healthier lives.
     
  48. turkleton

    turkleton Capeless Crusader

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    Ummm.... paging Kimberli Cox???
     
  49. sweet2th

    sweet2th ready to roll

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    You weren't at St. Lukes in Bethleham, PA in 2003 were you?
     
  50. remo

    remo Senior Member

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    Out of about 30 surgeons I know there is only 1 female and she is a trauma surgeon. She rocks in the trauma room.
     
  51. dantt

    dantt Member

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    I think a more interesting question would be, can/will the surgery profession adapt to accommodate the lifestyle many women demand?
     
  52. Critical Mass

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    No, and I'm omitting "women" from your statement and suggesting "people" or "applicants" as a more suitable term.

    It's like the mafia. You have to live by a certain code to be a general surgeon. In addition to the competative nature and long hours, you have to tell dirty jokes and cuss at the OR staff. Otherwise they don't let you be a surgeon. :)
     

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