Disparity in Medical Student Authorship in Dermatology

The sex differences of prospective dermatology residents at the medical school level and potential literature contributors is analyzed.

About 56% of medical student authors in dermatology were predicted by their first name to be women, according to study findings published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Researchers aimed to determine the sex differences involving prospective dermatology residents at the medical school level and potential contributors. The investigators reviewed the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD) and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Dermatology from 2019 through the summer of 2020.

Medical student authors were identified by their degrees and affiliations. The authors who had undergraduate or masters degrees were coded as students by 2 independent reviewers if the authors were affiliated with medical schools, and a third reviewer resolved any discrepancies. The Genderize.io website (https://genderize.io/) was used to predict author sex by first names with high probability.

A total of 486 publications were included in the analysis with 733 medical student authors identified. Among these authors, 56% were predicted by their first name to be women, and 42% were predicted to be men.

JAAD had the highest percentage of overall published student authors (56.7% women). JAMA had a smaller percentage of women authors (54.8% women), as well as a slightly higher percentage of women student first authors (JAMA 58.2%; JAAD 57.9%). From 2015 to 2020 among students, applicants, and residents, the percentage of medical students who are women has steadily increased, and the percentage of women in dermatology residencies has decreased, according to the investigators.

“Small gender differences in authorship do exist for medical students, where more females are publishing,” stated the researchers. “While this may indicate a promising new trend, these differences may be shrinking as students become residents.”

The investigators also observed a decreasing pattern of female representation regarding seniority in academic dermatology, as 63%, 50%, and 36% of assistant, associate, and full professors are women, respectively.

The researchers noted that their study is limited by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which mentoring opportunities and access to research may not be typical. In addition, journal-provided affiliations and degrees were used to identify students and some may have been omitted. Furthermore, the students who were identified may not accurately reflect those who ultimately begin dermatology residency.

“We hope these potentially promising trends in dermatology representation can trailblaze the future path for other specialties to follow, and increase retention of women and under-represented minorities in medicine to reduce bias and persistent barriers in research funding and academic promotion,” the investigators concluded.

Disclosure: One of the study authors declared affiliations with several dermatology publications. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Militello M, Szeto MD, Pulsipher KJ, et al. Gender analysis of publishing among medical students in dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol. Published online July 14, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2021.05.063