Gender and ethnic diversity in academic general surgery department leadership

  • Al-Faraaz Kassam
    Cincinnati Research on Education in Surgical Training (CREST), Cincinnati, OH, USA

    University of Cincinnati, Department of Surgery, Cincinnati, OH, USA
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  • Meredith Taylor
    Cincinnati Research on Education in Surgical Training (CREST), Cincinnati, OH, USA

    University of Cincinnati, Department of Surgery, Cincinnati, OH, USA
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  • Alexander R. Cortez
    Cincinnati Research on Education in Surgical Training (CREST), Cincinnati, OH, USA

    University of Cincinnati, Department of Surgery, Cincinnati, OH, USA
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  • Leah K. Winer
    Cincinnati Research on Education in Surgical Training (CREST), Cincinnati, OH, USA

    University of Cincinnati, Department of Surgery, Cincinnati, OH, USA
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  • Ralph C. Quillin III
    Corresponding author. Cincinnati Research on Education in Surgical Training, Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati, 231 Albert Sabin Way, ML 0558, Cincinnati, OH, 45267-0558, USA.
    Cincinnati Research on Education in Surgical Training (CREST), Cincinnati, OH, USA

    University of Cincinnati, Department of Surgery, Cincinnati, OH, USA
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Published:November 24, 2020DOI:


      • Improvement in diversity is not reflected in departmental leadership.
      • More women serve as associate program directors than other leadership positions.
      • Only 4 specialties had >10% representation from women as division-chiefs.
      • Only trauma/ACS had >10% representation from minorities.
      • Highlights lack of diversity and need for increased representation in leadership.



      Diversity in surgery has been shown to improve mentorship and patient care. Diversity has improved among general surgery (GS) trainees but is not the case for departmental leadership. We analyzed the race and gender distributions across leadership positions at academic GS programs.


      Academic GS programs (n = 118) listed by the Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access system were included. Leadership positions were ascertained from department websites. Gender and race were determined through publicly provided data.


      Ninety-two (79.3%) department chairs were white and 99 (85.3%) were men. Additionally, 88 (74.6%) program directors and 34 (77.3%) vice-chairs of education were men. A higher proportion of associate program directors were women (38.5%). Of 787 division-chiefs, 73.4% were white. Only trauma had >10% representation from minority surgeons. Women represented >10% of division chiefs in colorectal, thoracic, pediatric, and plastic/burn surgery.


      Diversity among GS trainees is not yet reflected in departmental leadership. Effort is needed to improve disparities in representation across leadership roles.

      Graphical abstract



      ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education), APDS (Association of Program Directors in Surgery), AMA (American Medical Association), FREIDA (Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database)
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