Search the Bridge

Mailing List

Contact Us


Research Briefs

Search Research Briefs
| Browse Research Briefs

Inequality in the classroom. According to a new study by the BU School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers, many women teaching at medical schools perceive that they are both discriminated against and have been sexually harassed.

The researchers surveyed 3,332 men and women at 24 medical schools nationwide. Of the respondents, 77 percent of women and 30 percent of men felt that gender discrimination existed in their workplace, and more than half of the women reported that it had hindered their professional advancement.

“The saddest thing is the gender disconnect,” says co-author Arlene Ash, MED research

professor of medicine. “While most of these women suspect that gender bias is both a personal and systemic problem, most of their male colleagues see their own professional advancement as occurring in a gender-free meritocracy.”

Nearly 30 percent of female faculty reported frequent occurrences of serious sexual harassment, such as unwanted sexual advances, bribery, or threats. More than half reported some level of sexual harassment by a superior or colleague.

The study also found that women in male-dominated specialties such as surgery were twice as likely to report being harassed as women working in primary care, possibly because such specialties tend to place a higher value on hierarchy and authority.

This was the first study to examine gender discrimination and harassment among medical school faculty. Previous studies had focused only on medical students and residents. Twenty-five percent of medical school faculty in the U.S. are women.

“The issue of gender bias in medical schools has broad impact,” says MGH’s lead author, Dr. Phyllis Carr. “If we don’t correct this now, it will be passed on to the next generation of physicians-in-training.”

The study was published in the June 6 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine and was funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

New treatment loosens panic’s hold. A recent study suggests that for many people with panic disorder, a combination of therapy and the antidepressant drug imipramine may offer the best hope for controlling the condition.

People with panic disorder (PD) have repeated panic attacks, which produce chest pain, accelerated pulse rate, sweating, shortness of breath, and dizziness. “PD sufferers make frequent emergency room trips, so the social and economic costs are considerable,” says study author David Barlow, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders.

Occasional panic attacks are fairly common, afflicting about 35 percent of the population. About 1 to 2 percent of these people will develop a more serious panic disorder. Attacks usually begin between the ages of 15 and 25. The exact cause of panic disorder is unknown.

Barlow says that traditional studies on the medical and psychotherapeutic treatments of PD have run on parallel tracks and believers in one approach are sometimes hostile to those who ascribe to another method. He and his research associates from Columbia University, Long Island Jewish/Hillside Medical Center, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Yale School of Medicine compared pharmacological treatments, therapeutic treatments, and a combination of the two in order to determine the optimal approach to treating PD.

Their study of 312 patients found that the combination of therapy and imipramine provided better relief of panic attack symptoms than either treatment alone, especially after the first three months. The study did not evaluate newer antidepressants, such as serotonin inhibitors Prozac or Zoloft, which work differently than imipramine.

The study appeared in the May 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (see the full article) and was supported in part by the National Institute of Mental Health.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations