, Volume 28, Issue 7, pp 901-907
Date: 23 Feb 2013

Evaluation of VA Women’s Health Fellowships: Developing Leaders in Academic Women’s Health

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ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) instituted the VA Women’s Health Fellowship (VAWHF) Program in 1994, to accommodate the health needs of increasing numbers of female veterans and to develop academic leaders in women’s health. Despite the longevity of the program, it has never been formally evaluated.

OBJECTIVE

To describe the training environments of VAWHFs and career outcomes of female graduates.

DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS

Cross-sectional web-based surveys of current program directors (2010–2011) and VAWHF graduates (1995–2011).

RESULTS

Responses were received from six of seven program directors (86 %) and 42 of 74 graduates (57 %). The mean age of graduates was 41.2 years, and mean time since graduation was 8.5 years. Of the graduates, 97 % were female, 74 % trained in internal medicine, and 64 % obtained an advanced degree. Those with an advanced degree were more likely than those without an advanced degree to pursue an academic career (82 % vs. 60 %; P < 0.01). Of the female graduates, 76 % practice clinical women’s health and spend up to 66 % of their time devoted to women’s health issues. Thirty percent have held a VA faculty position. Seventy–nine percent remain in academics, with 39 % in the tenure stream. Overall, 94 % had given national presentations, 88 % had received grant funding, 79 % had published in peer-reviewed journals, 64 % had developed or evaluated curricula, 51 % had received awards for teaching or research, and 49 % had held major leadership positions. At 11 or more years after graduation, 33 % of the female graduates in academics had been promoted to the rank of associate professor and 33 % to the rank of full professor.

CONCLUSIONS

The VAWHF Program has been successful in training academic leaders in women’s health. Finding ways to retain graduates in the VA system would ensure continued clinical, educational, and research success for the VA women veteran’s healthcare program.