A Call to Action: Black/African American Women Surgeon Scientists, Where are They?

Ann Surg. 2020 Jul;272(1):24-29. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000003786.


Objective: To determine the representation of Black/AA women surgeons in academic medicine among U.S. medical school faculty and to assess the number of NIH grants awarded to Black/AA women surgeon-scientists over the past 2 decades.

Summary of background data: Despite increasing ethnic/racial and sex diversity in U.S. medical schools and residencies, Black/AA women have historically been underrepresented in academic surgery.

Methods: A retrospective review of the Association of American Medical Colleges 2017 Faculty Roster was performed and the number of grants awarded to surgeons from the NIH (1998-2017) was obtained. Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges included the total number of medical school surgery faculty, academic rank, tenure status, and department Chair roles. Descriptive statistics were performed.

Results: Of the 15,671 U.S. medical school surgical faculty, 123 (0.79%) were Black/AA women surgeons with only 11 (0.54%) being tenured faculty. When stratified by academic rank, 15 (12%) Black/AA women surgeons were instructors, 73 (59%) were assistant professors, 19 (15%) were associate professors, and 10 (8%) were full professors of surgery. Of the 372 U.S. department Chairs of surgery, none were Black/AA women. Of the 9139 NIH grants awarded to academic surgeons from 1998 and 2017, 31 (0.34%) grants were awarded to fewer than 12 Black/AA women surgeons.

Conclusion: A significant disparity in the number of Black/AA women in academic surgery exists with few attaining promotion to the rank of professor with tenure and none ascending to the role of department Chair of surgery. Identifying and removing structural barriers to promotion, NIH grant funding, and academic advancement of Black/AA women as leaders and surgeon-scientists is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans*
  • Faculty, Medical / supply & distribution*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Physicians, Women / supply & distribution*
  • Research Support as Topic*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Schools, Medical
  • Surgeons / supply & distribution*
  • United States