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For Release:

8/22/2022

Media Contact:

Lisa Black
630-626-6084
lblack@aap.org


An updated policy statement notes that the understanding of what constitutes harassment and who is victimized has expanded significantly since a prior policy was published in 2006.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a policy statement to address sexual and gender-based harassment within the pediatric work and learning environments, with a focus on how to foster a supportive environment where all can thrive.

The policy statement, “Creating Work and Learning Environments Free of Gender-Based Harassment in Pediatric Health Care,” is published in the September 2022 Pediatrics (published online Aug. 22).

“Sexual and gender-based harassment is an ongoing problem in society, and those in medicine are not immune,” said Julie Story Byerley, MD, MPH, FAAP, lead author of the statement, written by the AAP Committee on Pediatric Workforce.

“The AAP recognizes that harassment is not always obvious but can be experienced as subtle gender-based remarks, such as calling a woman doctor by her first name while referring to a male colleague as “Dr.’” Dr. Byerley said. “Our goal is to gain a better understanding of how words can be harmful, whether intentional or not, and where we can take steps to support our colleagues who are targeted.”

The AAP defines microaggressions as everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target people based solely on their marginalized group membership. The policy statement also addresses “intersectionality,” to identify individuals with more than one marginalized identity. For instance, people with marginalized racial or ethnic identities who identify as LGBTQ may experience uniquely complicated intersectional effects of racism and homophobia or transphobia.

The AAP recommends that training be offered to help empower victims and bystanders who witness harassment. Other recommendations include:

  • A zero-tolerance policy for gender-based harassment at the work or learning environment. Employers and institutions should investigate reports of harassment by employees and act against the perpetrator when verified.
  • Clear policies and practices to hold perpetrators accountable.
  • Recognition that harassment might be perpetrated by families and patients and, despite the nature of the caregiving relationship, it should not be tolerated. Protocols should be developed to handle harassment by patients or families.
  • Victims who report gender-based harassment deserve support and protection from retaliation.

“Any person, no matter their gender or race, may be subjected to a form of harassment during their career,” Dr. Byerley said. “Employers and educators can take steps to eliminate harassment. As individuals, we can examine our own biases and behaviors, dispel stereotypes and support our colleagues in need.”

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.