Medical schools on childbearing, family leave policies

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Many medical schools provide paternity and maternity leaves, though the duration may among schools.
Many medical schools provide paternity and maternity leaves, though the duration may among schools.

Although the duration of childbearing and family leave policies varies among medical schools throughout the United States, many schools do provide both paternity and maternity leave, according to findings from a small study published in JAMA.

Investigators reviewed childbearing and family leave policies available online for the top 10 US medical schools, as listed by the US News & World Report. They examined the duration of leave reported by each policy, salary support during leave, and policy wording and clarity, particularly in reference to same-sex couples, fathers, and adoptees.

The average length of full salary support during leave across all schools was 8.6 weeks. A total of 3 schools of the included 12 institutions provided full salary support for childbearing leave, with 8 schools providing policies for extensions. Overall, the average family leave duration was 17.9 weeks. Although 4 schools provided >8 weeks of salary coverage during leave, salary support varied across institutions.

A total of 3 schools allowed family leave at the discretion of the department, and only 5 schools allowed leave to primary caregivers whose childcare responsibilities comprised more than 50% of their time. Often, the language used to describe who could take a leave of absence was unclear. The majority of the policies (n=10) included language depicting leave that was applicable to the father.

Because only 12 medical schools were included in this study, the findings are not representative of the overall average leave policies across the country. In addition, the investigation did not evaluate the association between leave policies and faculty retention.

“Restricting family leave availability to the primary caregiver prevents partners from taking any leave, potentially contributing to the attrition of women by not facilitating cooperative parenting,” the authors concluded.


  1. Riano NS, Linos E, Accurso EC, et al. Paid family and childbearing leave policies at top US medical schools. JAMA. 2018;319(6):611-614.
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