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What Drives Female Resident Burnout Rates? with Karl Bilimoria, MD & Yue-Yung Hu, MD

In a recent Northwestern Medicine study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, female surgical residents reported more mistreatment than men, which was linked to a higher burnout rates and more suicidal thoughts. Study authors Karl Bilimoria, MD & Yue-Yung Hu, MD explain.


Yue-Yung Hu, MD

"For gender discrimination, about half of it was from patients and (patient's) families. For sexual harassment, it's a mix of patients and families attending surgeons and it a little bit less from co-residents. So, it just depends on the particular type of mistreatment."

— Yue-Yung Hu, MD, MPH

  • Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Pediatric Surgery
  • Faculty member, Surgical Outcomes Quality Improvement Center

"I was struck by the fact that a lot of the discrimination came from patients and (patient's) families and that you have to really focus in on that, because if you're going to intervene and retrain all the faculty and retrain all the people in the hospital about how not to engage in that kind of behavior, that's not going to be effective because we have to talk about the patients and families."

—Karl Bilimoria, MD, ’08 MS, ’10 GME

  • Vice Chair for Quality, Department of Surgery
  • John Benjamin Murphy Professor of Surgery
  • Associate Professor of Surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology
  • Associate Professor of Medical Social Science
  • Director of the Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center of Northwestern University 
Karl Bilimoria, MD & Yue-Yung Hu, MD

Episode Notes

The journey to becoming a surgeon is a long and demanding, but for women who want to break into this male dominated field, it's even tougher.

A Northwestern Medicine study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that women surgical residents suffer more mistreatment than men, which leads to a higher burnout rate and more suicidal thoughts among female residents.

However, when the study authors adjusted for the occurrence of mistreatment (discrimination, harassment, abuse), the rates of burnout were similar for men and women residents. The results of the study come from a survey of trainees in all accredited 260 U.S. general surgical residency programs, with 99 percent of trainees responding. 

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