60 Years After the First Woman Cardiac Surgeon: We Still Need More Women in Cardiac Surgery Journal Articles uri icon

  • Overview
  • Research
  • Identity
  • Additional Document Info
  • View All


  • In 1960, Dr Nina Starr Braunwald became the first woman to perform open heart surgery. Sixty years later, despite the fact that women outnumbered men in American medical school in 2017, men still dominate the field of cardiac surgery. Women surgeons remain underrepresented in cardiac surgery; 11% of practicing cardiac surgeons in Canada were women in 2015, and 6% of practicing adult cardiac surgeons in the US were women in 2019. Although women remain a minority in other surgical specialties also, cardiothoracic surgery remains one of the most unevenly-gender distributed specialties. Why are there so few women cardiac surgeons, and why does it matter? Evidence is emerging regarding the benefits of diversity for a variety of industries, including healthcare. In order to attract and retain the best talent, we must make the cardiac surgery environment more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Some causes of perpetuation of the gender gap have been documented in the literature-these include uneven compensation and career advancement opportunities, outdated views on family dynamics, and disproportionate scrutiny of women surgeons, causing additional workplace frictions for women. Diversity is an organizational strength, and gender-diverse institutions are more likely to outperform their non-gender-diverse counterparts. Modifiable issues perpetuate the gender gap, and mentorship is key in helping attract, develop, and retain the best and brightest within cardiac surgery. Facilitating mentorship opportunities is key to reducing barriers and bridging the gap.


  • Gao, Sophie Weiwei
  • Forcillo, Jessica
  • Watkins, Amelia Claire
  • Antonoff, Mara B
  • Luc, Jessica GY
  • Chung, Jennifer CY
  • Ritchie, Laura
  • Eikelboom, Rachel
  • Shashidharan, Subhadra
  • Maruyama, Michiko
  • Whitlock, Richard
  • Ouzounian, Maral
  • Belley-Cote, Emilie

publication date

  • December 2021