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More women in medicine, but not at the top

More women are entering the medical field in Switzerland but gender diversity in top ranks is still lacking. Women represent one out of seven chief physicians in Switzerland.

The number of foreign doctors is also on the rise, according to Swiss Foundation of Medicine (FMH) 2018 medical statistics published on Wednesday in its weekly bulletin.

In 2018, there were 37,525 doctors in Switzerland, some 625 more than the previous year. While women represent less than half of doctors (15,982 women and 21,543 men), there are more women than men entering the profession.

The FMH reports that in 2017, women represented more than half of the students enrolled in a bachelor’s and master’s degree program in medicine (Bachelors: 2,923 women and 1,745 men; Masters: 1,849 women and 1,397 men).

Just over 1,000 students graduated last year with a federal degree in medicine, a majority of whom were women.

However, gender diversity is still lacking in the higher ranks of the medical profession. Once the diploma is in hand, women are more often found in lower ranking positions such as assistant doctors (58.6%) and clinic managers (47.9%). But at higher levels, women make up just under a quarter of assistant physicians (24.5%) and 12.4% of chief physicians.

Foreign doctors

There are also a growing number of foreign-born or -trained doctors, making up more than a third of doctors (13,266). More than half of foreign doctors come from Germany (53.8%) followed by Italy (8.8%), France (6.7%) and Austria (6.1%)

Switzerland has a medical density of 4.4 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants (3.9 if full-time equivalents). This is higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 3.6 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants. However, it remains comparable to that of neighbouring countries Germany (4.2), Austria (5.1), Italy (4) and France (3.2).

General internal medicine is the most common specialization (22.1% of practising physicians). It is followed by psychiatry and psychotherapy (10.2%), gynaecology and obstetrics (5.1%), pediatrics (5.0%) and anesthesiology (4.1%).