Cancer Letter: Sexual harassers should face consequences: As NIH director, Bertagnolli can foster change

Last year, the NIH announced that at the direction of Congress, the organization would tighten rules for reporting sexual and workplace harassment by investigators funded by the NIH.

This was seen as a step in the right direction­—to try to close the loopholes that have contributed to the ability of these types of perpetrators to continue in their careers and advance with no repercussions. 

These new rules are meant to stop the pervasive culture of “failing up” and “pass the harasser” that has perpetuated within health care and academia for years. The hierarchal structure and male-dominated leadership in academic medicine can contribute to an environment more conducive to sexual harassment. 

Academic medicine has the highest incidence of gender and sexual harassment, compared to other scientific fields with 30-70% of female physicians, and as many as 50% of medical students reporting being sexually harassed. 

By implementing DARVO—an acronym for deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender—falling back on hierarchal traditions, citing the “old boys club” or discounting behavior as “locker room talk,” it often feels like accountability for acts of harassment, sexual or otherwise, is a pipe dream.  

You can read the article here

About Shikha Jain, MD FACP

I am a practicing, board-certified hematology/oncology physician in Chicago. I speak on topics ranging from the impact of social media on healthcare, how physicians can utilize social media, how to write Op-eds in the medical world, gender equity and barriers to career advancement, and topics in GI oncology and immunotherapy. My goal is to explain complicated topics in simple terms. I also enjoy writing and you can find some of my writing on this site. I am a mother to three amazing kids and married to a gastroenterologist. I look forward to connecting with you.

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