Women in Neurosurgery: Positive Trends and Attrition

Uzma Samadani, MD, PhD

Women in Neurosurgery (WINS) is now entering its third year as a joint section of the AANS and CNS. It remains the fastest growing joint section in neurosurgery, with membership jumping from 143 to 173 members between 2014 and 2015. Currently, nearly half of the joint section chairs are women, and women represent an increasing proportion of academic neurosurgeons.1 The WINS mentorship program also continues to thrive with 19 new mentor assignments in 2015.

WINS accomplishments for 2015–16 include a follow-up to the 2015 manuscript “Attrition Rates in Neurosurgery Residency; Analysis of 1361 Consecutive Residents Matched from 1990 to 1999,” published in the Journal of Neurosurgery. The 2015 manuscript looked at residents who started training between 1990 and 1999, and found that 146 women matched into residency spots over ten years, of whom 92 became board certified. There was 17 percent attrition during residency for this cohort.

The new manuscript, published in March, 2016, in the Journal of Neurosurgery, investigates resident enrollment and attrition between 2000 and 2009, and found that 240 women matched during this decade. While board certification rates for this cohort of residents will not be apparent until 2024, we know that 41 of these women experienced attrition from the field during residency, which suggests that attrition during residency remains unchanged from the previous decade at 17 percent.2

Board certification for women in neurosurgery fluctuates. Nine women were board certified in 2015. Further statistics reveal that 11 women were certified in 2014, 15 women were certified in 2013, and 21 women received board certification in 2012.2 Thus, overcoming attrition remains a challenge to be addressed going forward.

Recently, WINS representative Sharona Ben-Haim generated a survey to explore issues related to pregnancy and childbearing among neurosurgeons. WINS has presented a recommendation to the ABNS regarding whether an extension should be considered for individuals who experience pregnancy and childbirth during the years immediately prior to board certification. Additional interventions to address attrition are also being discussed.

Other WINS accomplishments this year include an outreach to young children contemplating careers in neurosurgery. The daughters of Drs. Isabelle Germano and Odette Harris will soon be publishing a book telling the story of a neurosurgical mom from their own perspective.

At the end of April, I handed over the leadership reins of WINS to Stacey Quintero-Wolfe. Ann Parr will move to chair-elect, and Jennifer Sweet to secretary. I wish to thank the leadership of the CNS and AANS for an outstanding year, the membership of WINS for their support, and the many exceptional women who preceded me as chair for their phenomenal wisdom and mentorship.

Reference List

1 Lynch G, Nieto K, Puthenveettil S, et al. Attrition rates in neurosurgery residency: analysis of 1361 consecutive residents matched from 1990 to 1999. J Neurosurg. 2015; 122(2):240-9.

2 Renfrow JJ, Rodriguez A, Lieu A, et al. Positive trends in neurosurgery enrollment and attrition: analysis of the 2000-2009 female neurosurgery resident cohort. J Neurosurg. 2016; Mar;124(3):834-9.