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Med Educ. 2011 Mar;45(3):249-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2010.03856.x.

Gender and the pre-clinical experiences of female medical students: a taxonomy.

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1
Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA Department of Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA.

Abstract

CONTEXT:

The number of women entering medical school has increased substantially in recent years. However, practising female doctors still report gender-associated professional challenges. We focused on female medical students to characterise how gender shapes the range of their professional experiences during the pre-clinical years of medical school.

METHODS:

We conducted a qualitative study from 2006 to 2007 using in-depth interviews with 12 Year 3 female medical students at a private New England medical school who had completed their pre-clinical years of training. All transcripts were analysed using a grounded theory approach; the code structure was developed through a process of inductive reasoning. Coding team members coded all transcripts line by line, using a constant comparative method of analysis.

RESULTS:

The resulting taxonomy identifies three domains that capture the recurrent gender-associated experiences of our participants: (i) observations of the effect of gender on pre-clinical educational experiences through instructor, student and institutional behaviour; (ii) responses to observations of gender-based occurrences in terms of emotional reactions and strategic responses, and (iii) gender-associated expectations for the clinical years and beyond brought about by a heightened awareness of gender. Participants reported subtle as well as overt gender-based experiences and emotional consequences of both.

CONCLUSIONS:

Female medical students continue to report numerous gender-based experiences during their pre-clinical training. Such experiences have both emotional and educational consequences and institutions should develop multifaceted approaches to address the full spectrum of gender-based experiences that affect medical students.

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