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Faculty action. A series of studies by Phyllis Carr, a MED associate professor of medicine and an associate dean for student affairs, and her colleagues at the School of Medicine reveals substantial evidence of significant disadvantages and obstacles to advancement for women and minority faculty in academic medicine. With funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Carr and her associates, including Tom Inui, CEO of the Regenstrief Institute, and Janet Bickel of the American Association of Medical Colleges, will produce a handbook for medical school faculty that covers such topics as mentoring, negotiation, and other strategies for dealing with these challenges.

A 1998 study by Carr, Robert Friedman, a MED professor of medicine, and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital found that care of dependents often delayed advancement of female medical school faculty. “While women with children had similar career aspirations and goals as men, the women spent almost all their nonworking time caring for children, or in some cases, parents,” the authors reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Among the obstacles these faculty members faced were difficulties attending meetings scheduled early or late in the day and the lack of on-site child care, emergency leave, and part-time tenure tracks.

“Women with children published fewer peer-reviewed research studies, got less research funding, and reported less career progress and satisfaction with their careers than did men with children,” says Carr. A related study by the authors, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that minority faculty achieved lower academic ranks than nonminority faculty with comparable academic achievement.

A later study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that female medical school faculty members were nearly two and a half times more likely than male faculty to perceive gender discrimination in their work environment. Nearly 30 percent of women faculty reported serious sexual harassment -- unwanted sexual advances, bribery, or threats -- and more than half reported sexual harassment by a superior or colleague, compared to 5 percent of men. Qualitative studies, funded by the Josiah Macy, Jr., Foundation, have added greater understanding and clarity regarding the actual experience of gender and racial discrimination in academic medicine and how to address it.

“The issue of gender bias in medical schools has broad impact,” says Carr. “If we don’t correct this now, it will be passed on to the next generation of physicians in training.” The handbook, she expects, will be a step in the right direction.

Brushing matters. While it’s well-known that daily brushing and flossing are essential for healthy teeth, a recent study by researchers at the School of Public Health and the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine is the first to show that oral hygiene can prevent tooth loss. Previous studies had established the importance of oral hygiene in preventing specific oral diseases, such as gum disease, but had not documented the long-term benefits for tooth retention. The recent study also found that consistent, long-term preventive behaviors result in greater benefits than those done over a short term.

The team, led by Nancy Kressin, an SPH associate professor and a member of the Center for Health Quality Outcomes and Economic Research at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., followed 736 men over a period of more than 40 years. The men, who were enrolled in the Dental Component of the VA Normative Aging Study, were given oral exams every three years and completed questionnaires about their oral self-care practices.

The researchers found that those who brushed their teeth more than once a day were 38 percent less likely to lose their teeth than nonbrushers, those who flossed their teeth daily reduced their risk of tooth loss by 32 percent, and those who had annual dental cleanings reduced their tooth loss by 27 percent. The study also revealed that smokers are more likely to lose their teeth than nonsmokers (2.3 times more likely for heavy smokers, 1.5 times more likely for light smokers). In addition, those with a higher level of education -- college graduates compared to high school graduates -- also had greater tooth retention.

This work was published in the February issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

"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
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