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Increasing Diversity in Neurosurgery

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

The 2023 American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) conference was unique and memorable because it took place in our hometown of Los Angeles. Thousands of neurosurgeons, residents, medical students, and allied health professionals convened at the Los Angeles Convention Center to showcase their latest discoveries in research, education, innovation, and technology. Given that the AANS conference is one of the largest neurological events in the world, attendees were able to network and socialize with like-minded individuals and colleagues from different institutions local to the United States and around the world. This global presence of participants from different backgrounds ranging from young medical students to seasoned veteran neurosurgeons presented a great opportunity and impactful platform for mentorship and skill sharing.

 Over the years, the field of neurosurgery has continued to evolve and push boundaries alongside pioneers who diversified the field in scientific discovery and innovation. Meanwhile, the neurosurgical workforce has stayed relatively demographically analogous. Diversity in the workforce is key to serving the heterogeneous population of patients that reflect and best represent our society. This year at AANS 2023, I was proud to observe progress toward diversification and equity within the field of neurosurgery. This was apparent as individuals with increasingly varied backgrounds and identities entering the field of neurosurgery, were among the leaders and participants who took part in this scientific annual meeting. 

Within the diverse group of attendees were women in neurosurgery, including both physicians who exemplify years of expertise in this field, and young women neurosurgeons/medical students who have entered neurosurgery residency, or strive to join the field of neurosurgery. Dr. Canady, America's first black female neurosurgeon and the AANS 2023 Humanitarian Award recipient was one of the memorable highlights of the keynote speeches discussing diversity and inclusion. This is a testament to how the neurosurgery workspace has come a long way since Louise Eisenhardt, a renowned neuropathologist, became the first woman president of the Harvey Cushing Society, now the AANS, in 1938. That being said, there is still a lot more work that needs to be accomplished to better represent the society that the field of neurosurgery serves. 

Among these areas of improvement are neurosurgical residents who face unwarranted barriers to academic productivity during residency. One barrier that is still widely prevalent is the representation and academic productivity of women in neurosurgery residency.  These obstacles may impose subsequent limitations to women with respect to acquiring higher-level training, funding, and leadership positions. Our colleague, Vera Ong,  gave a talk on gender-based disparities in academic productivity observed during neurosurgery residency at this year’s AANS conference. In this study, women-neurosurgical residents were found to have a significantly lower number of publications, when compared to their male neurosurgical-resident counterparts.  This was compared to medical students accepted into neurosurgery where there was no such gender disparity in neurosurgery applicants.  With findings like these in mind, it was refreshing to see the diverse change within our field of medicine has begun to surface through impactful platforms such as the AANS.

Overall, the AANS 2023 meeting was a wonderful and memorable experience that I hope to partake in the future. This platform is not only important for seasoned physicians, but also aspiring professionals in the field as well. 

Dr. Yang is employed by UCLA, has received grants from Stryker and consulting fees or honorarium from Baxter and Brainlab.

Image by DynamoClock / Shutterstock

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