A paper by Assistant Professor of Sociology Matthew Grace was recently published online by Social Science & Medicine. “Parting ways: Sex-based differences in premedical attrition” will appear in the journal’s June print issue.
Grace said that 2018 was the first year the number of women admitted to U.S. medical schools was greater than the number of men admitted. He contends that “the achievement of parity in medical school admissions runs the risk of further obscuring what to date has been an underpublicized trend in medical education: the gender gap in premedical persistence.”
He said that it is more likely for undergraduate women than men to abandon their premed pathway, resulting in similar numbers of medical school applicants from both groups. He cited “women’s lower levels of satisfaction with premed coursework and greater enjoyment of their non-premed courses” as a key factor.
Grace studied interview data and found that a significant reason for this lower satisfaction is that “women view academic setbacks in these courses as a signal of ‘poor fit’ with premedical education—an attribution that is not made by men—and are discouraged by more frequent, negative interactions with faculty members.”
He also found that clinical experiences that “allow women to envision life as a physician and inspire resilience in the face of structural obstacles and academic hardships” are also important in retaining women in premed programs.