Research Roundup: Gender pay gap, eyesight restoration and preterm birth

March 10, 2020, 11:34 p.m.

Each week, The Daily’s Science & Tech section produces a roundup of the most exciting and influential research happening on campus or otherwise related to Stanford. Here’s our digest for the week of March 1 – March 7.

Women paid less than men among clinical departmental chairs

At the highest levels of academic medicine, women earn an average of 88 cents for every dollar men earn, or roughly $70,000 to $80,000 less annually, found a study published on March 2 in “JAMA Internal Medicine.”

The researchers analyzed public salary information from 29 public medical schools across 12 states. Initially, they found female clinical departmental chairs earned roughly $80,000 less per year compared to their male counterparts. 

Next, researchers controlled for factors including the position’s title, cost of living differences, how long a person held the position and academic specialization. The researchers found that women earned roughly $70,000 less per year compared to their male counterparts after controlling for other factors.

“Gender pay gaps are often blamed on women’s personal choices to reduce work hours or leave the workforce, household responsibilities, childcare or suboptimal negotiation skills,” dermatology professor Eleni Linos told Stanford Medicine News Center. “This study challenges these traditional explanations because our sample of medical department leaders have navigated these complex challenges and broken through the ‘glass ceiling.’ Yet they are still paid less than their male peers when controlling for many factors.”

“Our study shows the pervasiveness of gender inequities at all levels of academic medicine,” Linos added.

Chip implant may restore eyesight for elderly patients 

A retinal device implant may restore eyesight for patients with age-related macular degeneration, found a study published on Feb. 25 in “Ophthalmology.” Macular degeneration results in a loss of central vision, which allows us to see finer details when reading or driving.

The team focused on restoring central vision without harming the patient’s peripheral vision, which macular degeneration does not typically affect. The team recruited five patients over 60 years old for the clinical trial, which involved surgically inserting a pixelated chip that was less than one-twelfth of an inch wide to replace the patient’s damaged retina.

The findings suggest the initial surgical procedure was successful for 4 in 5 patients. All four patients who received the implant had experienced a measurable return of central vision when checked one year later. Researchers measured the visual acuity, or vision clarity, before and after the procedure.

Before surgery, three patients had zero visual acuity, and after the implantation procedure, they achieved visual acuity between 20/460 and 20/550. The fourth patient achieved visual acuity of 20/800.

“We keep working on higher-resolution chips, with the ultimate goal of achieving visual acuity better than 20/100,” ophthalmology professor Daniel Palanker told Stanford Medicine’s blog SCOPE.

Father’s health may increase risk of preterm birth

Paternal health factors like chronic illness may increase a newborn’s risk of medical issues including preterm birth, low birth weight and conditions related to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), found a study published on March 5 in “Fertility and Sterility.”

“Generally couples are not counseled about paternal health factors when they’re trying to get pregnant and ultimately have a healthy child,” urology associate professor Michael Eisenberg told Stanford Medicine’s blog SCOPE.

The team of researchers analyzed data from 785,809 births in the United States between 2009 to 2016, looking at paternal health factors including cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression. The findings suggest that the more chronic conditions present in a father, the more likely the child would be born preterm and require treatment in the NICU.

“Overall, I see this as another reason for men to pay more attention to their health and have more motivation to possibly make changes to lifestyle habits, such as diet or exercise,” Eisenberg told Stanford Medicine’s blog SCOPE. “If they know that their health has immediate impact on not only themselves — but their baby and possibly their partner — it could be another carrot that we can use to motivate them to enhance their health.”

Contact Derek Chen at derekc8 ‘at’

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