Dr. Downs and Colleagues Publish Paper in Academic Medicine on Promoting Women in Global Health

Dr. Jennifer Downs, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, is first author on a paper published in Academic Medicine (August 2014), entitled "Increasing Women in Leadership in Global Health". The paper focuses on solutions aimed at promoting female leaders from both resource-wealthy and resource-poor countries and highlights challenges such as climbing institutional career ladders, tensions between career and family responsibilities, and health and safety issues.

A factoid of interest cited in the paper is that 84% of undergraduate and 70% of graduate students interested in global health at Cornell University are women; however, the percentage of women progressively decreases with each step in the global health career ladder. At centers for global health at the top 50 US medical schools, less than one quarter of directors are women. In Tanzania, where Dr. Downs has worked since 2007, only one of four regional referral hospitals and one of its five major medical schools have female directors.

Other authors on the paper include Lindsey K. Reif, Dr. Adolfine Hokororo, and Dr. Daniel W. Fitzgerald, an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. They are concerned about the downward trend in the number of women physicians joining the leadership ranks in the field of global health. They believe that there are many young women committed to filling the gender gap in the field of global health and note several avenues that may help to overcome obstacles, including: leadership training grants, mentorship from female leaders in the field; strengthening health education in resource-poor countries; research-enabling grants; and altering institutional policies to support women who choose global health as a career path. Weill Cornell Medical College and the Weill Department of Medicine will be hosting a symposium in February 2015 to develop a concrete strategy to take a leadership role in addressing the gender gap in global health leadership.

Dr. Jennifer Downs