Experiences of LGBTQ+ Residents in US General Surgery Training Programs

JAMA Surg. 2022 Jan 1;157(1):23-32. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2021.5246.


Importance: Previous studies have shown high rates of mistreatment among US general surgery residents, leading to poor well-being. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ+) residents represent a high-risk group for mistreatment; however, their experience in general surgery programs is largely unexplored.

Objective: To determine the national prevalence of mistreatment and poor well-being for LGBTQ+ surgery residents compared with their non-LGBTQ+ peers.

Design, setting, and participants: A voluntary, anonymous survey adapting validated survey instruments was administered to all clinically active general surgery residents training in Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited general surgery programs following the 2019 American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination.

Main outcomes and measures: Self-reported mistreatment, sources of mistreatment, perceptions of learning environment, career satisfaction, burnout, thoughts of attrition, and suicidality. The associations between LGBTQ+ status and (1) mistreatment, (2) burnout, (3) thoughts of attrition, and (4) suicidality were examined using multivariable regression models, accounting for interactions between gender and LGBTQ+ identity.

Results: A total of 6956 clinically active residents completed the survey (85.6% response rate). Of 6381 respondents included in this analysis, 305 respondents (4.8%) identified as LGBTQ+ and 6076 (95.2%) as non-LGBTQ+. Discrimination was reported among 161 LGBTQ+ respondents (59.2%) vs 2187 non-LGBTQ+ respondents (42.3%; P < .001); sexual harassment, 131 (47.5%) vs 1551 (29.3%; P < .001); and bullying, 220 (74.8%) vs 3730 (66.9%; P = .005); attending surgeons were the most common overall source. Compared with non-LGBTQ+ men, LGBTQ+ residents were more likely to report discrimination (men: odds ratio [OR], 2.57; 95% CI, 1.78-3.72; women: OR, 25.30; 95% CI, 16.51-38.79), sexual harassment (men: OR, 2.04; 95% CI, 1.39-2.99; women: OR, 5.72; 95% CI, 4.09-8.01), and bullying (men: OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.07-2.12; women: OR, 2.00; 95% CI, 1.37-2.91). LGBTQ+ residents reported similar perceptions of the learning environment, career satisfaction, and burnout (OR, 1.22; 95% CI, 0.97-1.52) but had more frequent considerations of leaving their program (OR, 2.04; 95% CI, 1.52-2.74) and suicide (OR, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.26-3.04). This increased risk of suicidality was eliminated after adjusting for mistreatment (OR, 1.47; 95% CI, 0.90-2.39).

Conclusions and relevance: Mistreatment is a common experience for LGBTQ+ surgery residents, with attending surgeons being the most common overall source. Increased suicidality among LGBTQ+ surgery residents is associated with this mistreatment. Multifaceted interventions are necessary to develop safer and more inclusive learning environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bullying
  • Burnout, Professional
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Prejudice
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States