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Assessment of gender-based linguistic differences in physician trainee evaluations of medical faculty using automated text mining

JAMA Network Open May 10, 2019

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PAIR Center Research Team


IMPORTANCE: Women are underrepresented at higher ranks in academic medicine. However, the factors contributing to this disparity have not been fully elucidated. Implicit bias and unconscious mental attitudes toward a person or group may be factors. Although academic medical centers use physician trainee evaluations of faculty to inform promotion decisions, little is known about gender bias in these evaluations. To date, no studies have examined narrative evaluations of medical faculty by physician trainees for differences based on gender.

OBJECTIVE: To characterize gender-associated linguistic differences in narrative evaluations of medical faculty written by physician trainees.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This retrospective cohort study included all faculty teaching evaluations completed for the department of medicine faculty by medical students, residents, and fellows at a large academic center in Pennsylvania from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. Data analysis was performed from June 1, 2018, through July 31, 2018.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Word use in faculty evaluations was quantified using automated text mining by converting free-text comments into unique 1- and 2-word phrases. Mixed-effects logistic regression analysis was performed to assess associations of faculty gender with frequencies of specific words and phrases present in a physician trainee evaluation.

RESULTS: A total of 7326 unique evaluations were collected for 521 faculty (325 men [62.4%] and 196 women [37.6%]). The individual words art (odds ratio [OR], 7.78; 95% CI, 1.01-59.89), trials (OR, 4.43; 95% CI, 1.34-14.69), master (OR, 4.24; 95% CI, 1.69-10.63), and humor (OR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.44-3.73) were significantly associated with evaluations of male faculty, whereas the words empathetic (OR, 4.34; 95% CI, 1.56-12.07), delight (OR, 4.26; 95% CI, 1.35-13.40), and warm (OR, 3.45; 95% CI, 1.83-6.49) were significantly associated with evaluations of female faculty. Two-word phrases associated with male faculty evaluations included run rounds (OR, 7.78; 95% CI, 1.01-59.84), big picture (OR, 7.15; 95% CI, 1.68-30.42), and master clinician (OR, 4.02; 95% CI, 1.21-13.36), whereas evaluations of female faculty were more likely to be associated with model physician (OR, 7.75; 95% CI, 1.70-35.39), just right (OR, 6.97; 95% CI, 1.51-32.30), and attention (to) detail (OR, 4.26; 95% CI, 1.36-13.40).

CONCLUSION AND RELEVANCE: The data showed quantifiable linguistic differences between free-text comments about male and female faculty in physician trainee evaluations. Further evaluation of these differences, particularly in association with ongoing gender disparities in faculty promotion and retention, may be warranted.


National Institutes of Health
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute