CINN's Gail Rosseau, M.D., Co-authors Paper on the Future of Women in Neurosurgery

Share Article

Titled "The Future of Neurosurgery: a White Paper on the Recruitment and Retention of Women in Neurosurgery," the article is published in the September issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery.

A compelling paper, co-authored by Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch (CINN) neurosurgeon Gail Rosseau, M.D., is published in the September issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery. The paper offers insight into the predominantly male world of neurosurgery. Dr. Rosseau and several female neurosurgeons, who are members of Women in Neurosurgery (WINS), conducted research and recommended ways to increase the female neurosurgeon population in the U.S.

In 2007, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) recognized the need to take bold steps to recruit and retain more women in neurosurgery and requested that Women in Neurosurgery (WINS) author a white paper. The AANS believes that fairness and equality are fundamentally right and vital to the future success of this evolving specialty. The article is available online at

"The WINS paper not only outlines the realities and challenges for female neurosurgeons, but also offers viable solutions targeted at resolving these inequities. The paper touches on the fact that that the number of neurosurgeons appears to be decreasing relative to a growing population and that there is an urgent need to attract more qualified candidates to address this potential shortage. Failure to attract the brightest and most talented in the applicant pool by exclusions of subtle and deniable discrimination is unacceptable. This is an issue that affects the specialty as a whole--and inevitably our patients--and we intend to work together to resolve it," stated James R. Bean, president of AANS, and author of the accompanying editorial, available at

"Today, female neurosurgeons comprise just an estimated 5.9 percent of the neurosurgical workforce," says Dr. Rosseau, who is one of a handful of female neurosurgeons in Illinois. "There are presently only 189 ABNS-certified female neurosurgeons in the United States today, which compares to over 5,000 ABNS certified male neurosurgeons."

Here are some additional statistics the paper highlights:

  •     In 2005, women comprised more than 55 percent of students accepted to medical school, yet this has not translated to an increase in the number of women pursuing neurosurgery.
  •     While women comprise 30 percent of the general surgery resident population, only 10 percent of neurosurgical residents are women.
  •     As late as the 1990s, at least 30 percent of neurosurgical residency programs had never graduated a female resident.
  •     There are 25 full-time female academic neurosurgeons.
  •     The first and only female chair to date of a neurosurgery department was not appointed until 2005.
  •     Female neurosurgeons account for 6 percent of full-time faculty.
  •     Female neurosurgeons account for 4.6 percent in private practice.

According to the authors, women physicians today occupy many chair positions and hold prominent national and editorial positions. Yet advances for women in several surgical specialties--including orthopedics, thoracic surgery, and neurosurgery--have progressed at a much slower pace. Some of the obstacles to pursuing a career in neurosurgery cross gender boundaries, such as:

  •     Long working hours
  •     Length of training
  •     Risk of litigation
  •     Limited exposure to neurosurgery in the medical school curriculum

The authors note that women may face the following additional obstacles:

  •     Gender inequity in regard to salaries, academic promotion, and achieving leadership positions.
  •     Inadequate mentoring and lack of role models for women who wish to become leaders locally, regionally, or nationally.
  •     The perception among medical students that female applicants have difficulty gaining acceptance into neurosurgical residency training programs and may face harassment once accepted.

To overcome the obstacles and issues identified in the paper, the authors propose implementing a broad strategic plan:

1.    Characterize the barriers.
2.    Identify and eliminate discriminatory practices in the recruitment of medical students, in the training of residents, and in the hiring and advancement of neurosurgeons.
3.    Promote women into leadership positions within organized neurosurgery.
4.    Foster the development of female neurosurgeon role models by the training and promotion of competent, enthusiastic female trainees and surgeons.

"It is important to keep in mind that many of the changes recommended in this paper are likely to benefit all neurosurgeons, irrespective of gender, and will help ensure the future viability of our specialty. Given the challenges facing neurosurgery and academic medicine in general, WINS joins with all of organized neurosurgery in the desire to see neurosurgery continue to grow and prosper," concluded Dr. Benzil.

The Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch (CINN-- medical group is one of the nation's leading organizations for the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of people with brain and spine disorders. Originally founded in 1987, CINN is one of the Midwest's largest teams of neurosurgeons known for their pioneering treatments and minimally invasive techniques. The Chicago-based neurosurgery practice has offices in Chicago, Vernon Hills, Elmhurst, Skokie, Tinley Park, Orland Park and Harvey. For more information, log on to


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print