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Scholarly gender gap extends to medical students: the case of Australasia
  1. Yassar Alamri
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yassar Alamri, New Zealand Brain Research Institute, University of Otago, 66 Stewart St, Christchurch, 8011, New Zealand; yassar.alamri{at}

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We read the finding by Athanasiou and colleagues with great interest.1 Great strides have been made on equal involvement of men and women in academic and biomedical fields. For medical programmes, women now make up more or less half of the classes in the USA,2 Australia3 and New Zealand.3 Figures are similar for students of higher research degrees (eg, PhD).2

Despite the seemingly equal interest in medicine and research from both sexes, combining the two has not enjoyed such a clear-cut pattern. While some reports found women to participate in research during medical school as much as, if not more than, men,4 several studies have highlighted the noticeable lack of female physician-scientists compared with their male counterparts.2 ,5

This report aims to shed light on the situation in Australian and New Zealand universities. It also offers reasons for apparent discrepancies in the literature and suggests solutions to tackle current challenges.


Published data on intercalating female medical students (and female physician-scientists) in Australia are relatively scarce. Prior to recent curricular changes, the MBBS/PhD programme at the University of Sydney had enrolled 31 students, only 8 (25.1%) of whom were women.6 For female clinicians who completed a PhD postgraduation, they were less likely to publish compared with males, and they were …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.