Follow the money: Investigating gender disparity in industry payments among senior academics and leaders in plastic surgery

PLoS One. 2020 Dec 28;15(12):e0235058. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0235058. eCollection 2020.


INTRODUCTION: Differences in academic qualifications are cited as the reason behind the documented gender gap in industry sponsorship to academic plastic surgeons. Gendered imbalances in academic metrics narrow among senior academic plastic surgeons. However, it is unknown whether this gender parity translates to industry payments.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of industry payments disbursed to plastic surgeons in 2018. Inclusion criteria encompassed (i) faculty with the rank of professor or a departmental leadership position. Exclusion criteria included faculty (i) who belonged to a speciality besides plastic surgery; (ii) whose gender could not be determined; or (iii) whose name could not be located on the Open Payment Database. Faculty and title were identified using departmental listings of ACGME plastic surgery residency programs. We extracted industry payment data through the Open Payment Database. We also collected details on H-index and time in practice. Statistical analysis included odds ratios (OR) and Pearson’s correlation coefficient (R).

RESULTS: We identified 316 senior academic plastic surgeons. The cohort was predominately male (88%) and 91% held a leadership role. Among departmental leaders, women were more likely to be an assistant professor (OR 3.9, p = 0.0003) and heads of subdivision (OR 2.1, p = 0.0382) than men. Industry payments were distributed equally to male and female senior plastic surgeons except for speakerships where women received smaller amounts compared to their male counterparts (median payments of $3,675 vs $7,134 for women and men respectively, p<0.0001). Career length and H-index were positively associated with dollar value of total industry payments (R = 0.17, p = 0.0291, and R = 0.14, p = 0.0405, respectively).

CONCLUSION: Disparity in industry funding narrows at senior levels in academic plastic surgery. At higher academic levels, industry sponsorship may preferentially fund individuals based on academic productivity and career length. Increased transparency in selection criteria for speakerships is warranted.

PMID:33370290 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0235058