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More female applicants needed for surgery posts

A paper published in the February edition of the Bulletin of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) points out that surgery could be missing out on some of the best graduates. It highlights the fact that, although women who apply for surgical training are proportionately more likely to be appointed than men, surgery remains a predominately male profession. RSC reports that women account for 55% at medical school, yet only 7% of consultant surgeons. The paper, ‘Surgical training: still highly

competitive but still very male’, written by Mrs Scarlett McNally, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Eastbourne District General Hospital and chair of Opportunities In Surgery, found that female applicants were statistically more likely to get onto training programmes. The paper analysed all applicants to surgical

training in England andWales over a two year period. It found that, while 29% of applicants to basic surgical training were women, 31% of appointees were female, suggesting women performed better in the application process than men.Women’s success rate was even greater in

higher surgical training: in one year (2008) only 16% of applicants were women, making up 22% of appointees. Mrs Scarlett McNally, said: “Surgery needs

the very best doctors and this means ensuring everything is being done to encourage the widest pool of applicants. Given that the majority of those qualifying from medical school are women, to ensure the best possible surgeons in the future it is essential that a surgical career is seen as an attractive choice to both sexes.” The paper also reported an attrition rate,

with the 25% of the female applicants for basic surgical training dropping to 15% for higher training. It takes five years to train as a doctor and a further ten to train to the level of consultant surgeon. The paper speculates that the years of postgraduate training coinciding with the years of child-rearing may be a factor in dissuading female doctors from remaining in surgical training. However, Mrs McNally points out that the NHS offers supervised structured training, maternity pay and support and the option of part-time training on return.

Climate link to lower rates of IBD

Living in sunnier climates may curb the likelihood of developing inflammatory bowel disease, particularly after the age of 30, suggests a large, long-term US study, published online in the journal Gut. The authors found that patients living in southerly climes were 52% less likely to develop Crohn’s disease by the age of 30 and 38% less likely to develop ulcerative colitis, compared with those residing in northern latitudes. Smoking, which is thought to affect IBD risk, had no influence on the findings. “A leading explanation for this north-south

gradient in the risk of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease may be differences in exposure to sunlight or UVB radiation, which is generally greater in southern latitudes,” the authors commented. “UV radiation is the greatest environmental determinant of plasma vitamin D, and there is substantial experimental data supporting a role for vitamin D in the innate immunity and regulation of inflammatory response,” they continued. They added that their results lend credence to

the importance of biological pathways in influencing geographical differences in the development of IBD.

Government offers funding boost for diagnostics

Three major projects are to receive over £1 m of Government funding to enable them to develop new and improved health-economics tools or products that will assist and improve the design and evaluation of diagnostic clinical trials for infectious agents. The funding, from the Technology Strategy

Board in partnership with the Department of Health and with additional contributions from the Economic and Social Research Council to fund academic social science components, has been awarded for three development contracts. These will be undertaken by Diagnostics for the RealWorld (Europe), Integrated Medicines

and the Health Protection Agency. The funding award follows the organisations’

success in the Assessing the Impact of Near- Patient Testing competition for development contracts managed by the Technology Strategy Board and developed in discussion with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA). The competition was run under the Technology Strategy Board’s infectious disease programme that aims to reduce the economic burden, death and illness due to infectious agents. Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology

Strategy Board, said: “Supporting innovation in healthcare is a priority for the Technology Strategy Board. Through these contracts we look forward to seeing the development of new and improved health-economics modelling tools that will help companies and organisations design and evaluate diagnostic clinical trials.We hope these new tools will lead to better adoption of diagnostic products by providing assessors and decision-makers with high-quality data on their impact.” Two projects will focus on sexually

transmitted infections, while another will focus on sepsis.

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