Despite recent efforts to understand the complex process of physician career development, the medical education community has a poor understanding of why, how, and when women physicians embark on a career in academic medicine.
In 2010, the authors phone-interviewed women physicians in academic medicine regarding why, how, and when they chose an academic medicine career. Project investigators first individually and then collectively analyzed transcripts to identify themes in the data.
Through analyzing the transcripts of the 53 interviews, the investigators identified five themes related to why women choose careers in academic medicine: fit, aspects of the academic health center environment, people, exposure, and clincial medicine. They identified five themes related to how women make the decision to enter academic medicine: change in specialty, dissatisfaction with former career, emotionality, parental influence, and decision-making styles. The authors also identified four themes regarding when women decide to enter academic medicine: as a practicing phyisican, fellow, resident, or medical student.
Choosing a career in academic medicine is greatly influenced by the environment in which one trains and by people—be they faculty, mentors, role models, or family. An interest in teaching is a primary reason women choose a career in academic medicine. Many women physicians entering acadmic medicine chose this after or during fellowship, which is when they became more aware of academic medicine as a possible career. For many women, choosing academic medicine was not necessarily an active, planned decision; rather it was serendipitous or circumstantial.