Current Parental Leave Policies for Medical Students at U.S. Medical Schools: A Comparative Study

Molly B. Kraus, Jennifer M.V. Talbott, Ryan Melikian, Sarah A. Merrill, Cynthia M. Stonnington, Sharonne N. Hayes, Julia A. Files, Pelagia E. Kouloumberis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Parental leave for new parents is essential as they adjust to the physical and psychological changes that accompany childbirth and caring for a newborn. This study sought to determine the current state of parental leave policies for medical students at medical schools in the United States. Method From November to December 2019, 2 researchers independently reviewed the websites of 199 U.S. MD-granting and DO-granting medical schools (including in U.S. territories). Online student handbooks and school webpages were searched for the following keywords: "pregnant" OR "pregnancy" OR "maternity" OR "parent" OR "family" OR "child" OR "birth." Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Fisher's exact tests evaluated differences in proportion by group. Results Of 199 schools, 65 (32.66%) had parental leave policies available online or in the handbook: 39 of 155 (25.16%) MD-granting and 26 of 44 (59.09%) DO-granting schools. Of those policies, 59 (90.77%) were included in the student handbook. Most policies (28, 43.08%) were included as an option within the school's general leave of absence policy. Both parents were included in 38 (58.46%) policies; 23 (35.38%) policies mentioned only mothers; and 4 (6.15%) were unknown. An option to maintain original graduation date was offered in 21 (32.1%) schools' policies. Three schools (4.62%) included adoption as qualifying for parental leave. When comparing MD and DO programs, DO programs were statistically more likely to have a parental leave policy: 39 (25.16%) vs 26 (59.09%); P <.001. Conclusions Balancing medical school with pregnancy and childbirth necessitates administrative support to address the inherent scheduling challenges. Currently, many schools lack parental leave policies for medical students that are easily accessible, are separate from formal leaves of absence, allow for at least 12 weeks, and are tailored to the student academic year to ensure on-time completion of medical education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1315-1318
Number of pages4
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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