June 9, 2023

Workplace Harassment, Cyber Incivility, and Climate in Academic Medicine

Dr. Feldman was part of a multi-institutional team of top researchers that published findings in JAMA that evaluated academic medical culture, faculty mental health, and their relationship.

Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., and Reshma Jagsi, M.D., DPhil, who recently left Michigan Medicine for Emory University, have been longtime collaborators and proponents of equity in academic medicine.  Recently, they joined a team of top scientists from the University of Michigan, Drexel University, and Duke University to investigate if the culture of academic medicine fosters mistreatment that disproportionately affects minority groups and compromises workforce vitality.  

While there have been studies on the subject, they have been limited by a lack of comprehensive and validated measures, low response rates, narrow samples, and comparisons limited to cisgender categories (binary categories of male or female assigned at birth).  

This study, published in JAMA, used responses from a 2021 survey given to faculty members in the US who received NIH career development awards and remained in academia. Experiences were compared by gender, race, and ethnicity, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) status.  Three aspects of culture were measured: organizational climate, sexual harassment, and cyber incivility using previously developed instruments. The 5-item Mental Health Inventory (scored from 0 to 100 points with higher values indicating better mental health) was used to evaluate the secondary outcome of mental health.

Here is what they found:

  • Women rated general climate (5-point scale) more negatively than men
  • Diversity climate ratings differed significantly by gender, receiving a higher rating from men 
  • Diversity climate ratings also differed significantly by race and ethnicity for respondents underrepresented in medicine vs White respondents, with the latter giving a higher rating 
  • Women were more likely than men to report experiencing gender harassment (sexist remarks and crude behaviors)
  • Those with LGBTQ+ status were more likely to report experiencing sexual harassment than cisgender and heterosexual respondents when using social media professionally
  • Each of the 3 aspects of culture and gender was significantly associated with the secondary outcome of mental health in the multivariable analysis