Purpose: To obtain information from a group of young physicians and compare men and women on their evaluations of selected areas of the medical school curriculum, their perceptions of issues related to medical practice and professional life, and their specialty choices, professional activities, and research productivity.
Method: In 1992, a questionnaire was mailed to 1,076 physicians who had graduated from Jefferson Medical College between 1982 and 1986. The responses of men and women were compared using multivariate and univariate analyses of variance, t-tests, chi-square, and median test.
Results: Completed questionnaires were returned by 667 graduates (530 men and 137 women). The curriculum areas of interpersonal skills, disease prevention, medical ethics, and economics of health care were rated by both men and women as being the most important in medical training. Conversely, research methodology and statistics received the lowest ratings. Women, in general, valued psychosocial aspects of medical care higher than did men. Among the areas of perceived problems related to practice, lack of leisure time received the highest ratings (as being the greatest problem) and interpersonal interactions received the lowest ratings (as being the least problem) from both men and women. The men were more concerned than the women about the areas of patient chart and documentation, malpractice litigation, physician oversupply, peer review, and interaction with patients. These differences remained when specialties and numbers of hours worked per week were held constant. Generally, the physicians reported satisfaction with their professional lives, but the men tended to be more satisfied than the women about their decisions to become physicians and in their perceptions of medicine as a rewarding career. The proportion of men employed full-time (99.4%) was significantly higher than that for women (84%). Women were more likely to practice general pediatrics, while men were more likely to practice surgery and surgical subspecialties. Full-time--employed women worked fewer hours per week (57) than men (63), and men reported more research productivity than women.
Conclusion: The implications of the findings of numerous gender differences are discussed regarding the issues of physician workforce, types of care rendered by men and women, and possible changes in the national health care system.