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Rambam Weighs in on Research Showing that Surgeon Gender Can Impact Patient Outcomes

Publication Date: 9/21/2023 8:00 AM

Do female surgeons achieve better surgical outcomes than their male counterparts? Results of two cohort studies targeting more than 1.3-million patients show a clear difference. Expert surgeons at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel have also noticed this result.

Dr. Michal Mekel. Photography: Rambam HCC.Dr. Michal Mekel. Photography: Rambam HCC.

Two recent studies, one at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and the other in Sweden, investigated adverse postoperative outcomes of patients, with male and female surgeons. The studies did not distinguish between sex (male and female) and gender (men and women), interchangeably. The results were published in the high impact JAMA Surgery journal. Even though the studies had different parameters their findings were similar – the patients of female surgeons had better surgical outcomes than their male counterparts whose patients experienced more adverse surgical outcomes.

Dr. Michal Mekel, deputy director of Rambam and director of the hospital’s Endocrine Surgery Service says, “Previous studies have shown better patient outcomes among female surgeons. Surgery requires attention to detail and females are more detail-oriented.”

Understanding the sociodemographic characteristics of surgeons and the association between a surgeon’s sex/gender and surgical outcomes is an important step in evaluating the implications of diversifying surgical practice in health care delivery. Dr. Christopher Wallis, a lead investigator of the Canadian study, commented in the original YNet article in early September, “As a male surgeon, I think this data should make me and my colleagues stop and consider why this is happening. Men and women differ in the way they practice medicine, and adopting methods that are more common among female surgeons, may improve the surgical outcomes of those performed by male doctors.”

Dr. May Blum, lead investigator of the Swedish study, also told YNet “Published studies indicate that female surgeons are at least as good as male surgeons, or, as in our case, even a little better.”

Professor Rachel Grossman, deputy director of the Department of Neurosurgery at Rambam, agrees that patients of female surgeons have better postoperative outcomes. She comments, “More women are qualifying as surgeons by the time they are in their 30’s. This specialty is demanding and requires much personal sacrifice. Male surgeons advance faster than women. However, despite the challenges and sacrifices, women are still choosing this specialty.”

More females may be choosing this profession to prove that they are comparable to their male counterparts. Perhaps the desire to prove their equality leads female surgeons to be more thorough and committed, which ultimately leads to better patient outcomes. Whatever the reason, the research results are conclusive: across all fields of surgical medicine, female surgeons have superior patient outcomes as compared to male surgeons.

Based on a Hebrew article that first appeared on the YNet news website