A recent study published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery collected data from the social media accounts of vascular surgery residents in order to classify the professionalism of the doctors’ posts. Once the study came out, researchers based at the Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine were questioned about thee methodology they used in gathering the data—they used fake accounts to monitor the residents—and the way in which they targeted female doctors in particular with their finding. Of course, an immediate backlash involving doctors in bikinis ensued.
As if monitoring the residents without their consent wasn’t bad enough, the study’s findings were deemed to be inappropriate and sexist. Among what they found to be “unprofessional,” were posts about “controversial or religious comments,” “controversial social topics” and “inappropriate attire,” which went on to include images “in underwear, provocative Halloween costumes, and provocative posing in bikinis/swimwear.”
Oklahoma City dermatologist Kimberly Jerdan, MD says the paper is problematic because it creates a double standard for women. “In their critique, they deemed women in bikinis or provocative Halloween costumes to be unprofessional. However, men in swim trunks is somehow not considered unprofessional. The items the authors considered unprofessional unfairly targeted women.”
In response to the article, female doctors from across specialities have posted their own swimsuit photos with the hashtag #Medbikini to prove that they are professionals in their field whether they pose in their swimsuits or not. “The uproar the article caused for female physicians was refreshing in that it showed that we have a life outside of medicine that we shouldn’t be ashamed of,” says Dr. Jerdan. “Female physicians shouldn’t be unfairly judged or objectified by their photos on social media.”
The #Medbikini challenge did have an impact, as the clinical researchers who conducted the study quickly apologized and asked the journal for a retraction of their study . One of the study authors, vascular surgeon Dr. Jeff Siracuse tweeted his apology and attempted to explain that the paper’s intent was to empower surgeons to be aware about what patients and colleagues can see online. “This clearly was not the result,” he wrote. “We realize that the definition of professionalism is rapidly changing in medicine and that we need to support our trainees and surgeons as our society changes without the appearance of judgment.”
The apology and retraction is a good start, but some doctors like Dr. Jerdan are concerned that a study conducted in such a deceptive manner was ever published in the first place: “In such a scientific medical world, it’s alarming such protocol even passed the Institutional Review Board,” she adds.
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