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This article is the authors’ final published version in JAMA Network Open, Volume 4, Issue 7, July 2021, Article number e2115661.

The published version is available at Copyright © Gorth et al.

Publication made possible in part by support from the Jefferson Open Access Fund


Importance: Women studying medicine currently equal men in number, but evidence suggests that men and women might not be evaluated equally throughout their education.

Objective: To examine whether there are differences associated with gender in either objective or subjective evaluations of medical students in an internal medicine clerkship.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This single-center retrospective cohort study evaluated data from 277 third-year medical students completing internal medicine clerkships in the 2017 to 2018 academic year at an academic hospital and its affiliates in Pennsylvania. Data were analyzed from September to November 2020.

Exposure: Gender, presumed based on pronouns used in evaluations.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Likert scale evaluations of clinical skills, standardized examination scores, and written evaluations were analyzed. Univariate and multivariate linear regression were used to observe trends in measures. Word embeddings were analyzed for narrative evaluations.

Results: Analyses of 277 third-year medical students completing an internal medicine clerkship (140 women [51%] with a mean [SD] age of 25.5 [2.3] years and 137 [49%] presumed men with a mean [SD] age of 25.9 [2.7] years) detected no difference in final grade distribution. However, women outperformed men in 5 of 8 domains of clinical performance, including patient interaction (difference, 0.07 [95% CI, 0.04-0.13]), growth mindset (difference, 0.08 [95% CI, 0.01-0.11]), communication (difference, 0.05 [95% CI, 0-0.12]), compassion (difference, 0.125 [95% CI, 0.03-0.11]), and professionalism (difference, 0.07 [95% CI, 0-0.11]). With no difference in examination scores or subjective knowledge evaluation, there was a positive correlation between these variables for both genders (women: r = 0.35; men: r = 0.26) but different elevations for the line of best fit (P < .001). Multivariate regression analyses revealed associations between final grade and patient interaction (women: coefficient, 6.64 [95% CI, 2.16-11.12]; P = .004; men: coefficient, 7.11 [95% CI, 2.94-11.28]; P < .001), subjective knowledge evaluation (women: coefficient, 6.66 [95% CI, 3.87-9.45]; P < .001; men: coefficient, 5.45 [95% CI, 2.43-8.43]; P < .001), reported time spent with the student (women: coefficient, 5.35 [95% CI, 2.62-8.08]; P < .001; men: coefficient, 3.65 [95% CI, 0.83-6.47]; P = .01), and communication (women: coefficient, 6.32 [95% CI, 3.12-9.51]; P < .001; men: coefficient, 4.21 [95% CI, 0.92-7.49]; P = .01). The model based on the men's data also included growth mindset as a significant variable (coefficient, 4.09 [95% CI, 0.67-7.50]; P = .02). For narrative evaluations, words in context with "he or him" and "she or her" differed, with agentic terms used in descriptions of men and personality descriptors used more often for women.

Conclusions and Relevance: Despite no difference in final grade, women scored higher than men on various domains of clinical performance, and performance in these domains was associated with evaluators' suggested final grade. The content of narrative evaluations significantly differed by student gender. This work supports the hypothesis that how students are evaluated in clinical clerkships is associated with gender.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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