What started as a simple hashtag has sparked a nationwide movement. From the entertainment industry to the Olympics to Congress, leaders in nearly every facet of society have had to face #MeToo. So far, however, it seems the trend has not yet hit many medical schools.
Surveys have shown that, over the last 5 years, reports of sexual harassment have remained unchanged at medical schools. Nearly half of female medical school faculty members have reported at least 1 episode of sexual harassment in their careers. For years, medical schools have been cataloging sexual harassment, but so far, students and faculty members are not coming forward as frequently as expected.
Karen Antman, MD, Boston University School of Medicine Provost and author of a viewpoint article published in JAMA, sought to find out what has happened at medical schools since the #MeToo movement began last fall.
Through a questionnaire sent out to medical school deans across the United States, Dr Antman found that the majority of respondents had not noticed an increase in complaints. A small number of deans, however, noted that alumnae had come forward with allegations against current or former faculty members.
Ending sexual harassment begins with change. Many medical schools are moving in the right direction by mandating zero tolerance policies, offering education and training programs, and enhancing their Title IX policies. Some schools are trying to make it easier for students to come forward by adding questions on course evaluations.
“The process requires a cultural change that depends on a multi-targeted full court press involving faculty, staff, and learners at both the medical school and hospital,” said Dr Antman in an interview with Medical Bag. “And even then, moving the needle is hard. If students are increasingly aware and feel safe coming forward, increased reporting is actually a good thing.”
Antman K. Building on #MeToo to enhance the learning environment for US medical schools [published online April 2, 2018]. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.3812