Composition of Academic Radiation Oncology Workforces in National Cancer Institute–Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers

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In a study reported in JCO Oncology Practice, McClelland et al found that among academic radiation oncologists at National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers (CCCs), less than 5% were from underrepresented minority groups, senior faculty included more men than women, and women had lower h-index scores.

Website searches of the 51 CCCs were performed in September 2019. The Scopus database was searched in December 2019 to identify the h-index (measure of academic productivity) for each radiation oncologist.

Key Findings

A total of 993 radiation oncologists at CCCs were included in the analysis; of these, 670 (67.5%) were men and 323 (32.5%) were women. Overall, 47 (4.7%) belonged to an underrepresented minority group (African American or Hispanic). The average time of being a physician was 19.7 years (standard deviation = 11.3 years).

Overall, 53.6% were junior faculty, 24.8% were associate professors, and 21.7% were full professors. There was a significant association between sex and academic rank (P = .009); 24.6% of men and 15.5% of women were full professors (P = .001).

Of 51 department chairs, 11.8% were women and 5.6% belonged to underrepresented minority groups. Men were more likely to be department chairs vs women (6.7% vs 1.9%, P = .0007).  A total of 31.9% of physicians practiced in the most economically stratified geographic regions (New York, California, Massachusetts, Illinois, and District of Columbia); 6% of program directors in these regions were women vs 41% elsewhere (P = .02).

The mean h-index among all faculty was 17.6, with significant differences observed among junior faculty (8.21), associate professors (18.46), and full professors (40.05; overall P < .0001) and between men (19.35) and women (14.11; P < .001). On multivariate analysis, male sex, higher academic rank, and a secondary advanced degree were significantly correlated with higher h-index.

The investigators concluded, “Among academic radiation oncologists at CCCs, under 5% are underrepresented minorities, men are significantly overrepresented among senior faculty, and women have significantly lower h-indices than men.”

Shearwood McClelland III, MD, of the Department of Radiation Oncology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, is the corresponding author for the JCO Oncology Practice article.

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