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Feature Story

How These AAAAI Mothers Changed the ABAI Leave Policy

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Sandoval Family
By the time Ashley Sandoval, MD, discovered she was pregnant during her fellowship, she had already taken some time off for vacation and sick leave. “I realized by the time my baby would be born, I might only have about four weeks of parental leave without having to make up additional fellowship time,” she said. “Since this was my second child I was already familiar with the demands of a newborn baby and was distressed with the impact that limited leave would have on my new baby as well as myself.”
Christine Panganiban, MD, MS, Past Chair of the FIT Committee, was also familiar with navigating a pregnancy while in training. “I had my first beautiful baby boy when I was in residency. I was fortunate to have a wonderful program director who worked with me to have six weeks postpartum and make sure I graduated on time. When I went to fellowship, a couple of my friends were having babies. I was shocked to find that there was a great parental leave policy recommended by the American Board of Medical Specialties, but A/I fellows were only permitted to have four weeks off per year.”
It inspired Dr. Panganiban to begin advocating for change. “Christine approached me with the idea of submitting a formal proposal to the ABAI to extend parental leave,” said Dr. Sandoval, who is current Chair of the FIT Committee. “We discovered the precedent to extend parental leave had already been set and that there is a lot of published work on the topic of leave in residency.”
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“As parents ourselves, it was important to us to make sure each A/I fellow who becomes a parent is able to adjust, recover, and spend time with their newborns. Thanks to the hard work of the FIT Committee, fellows will be able to benefit from the new policy for years to come.”
Christine Panganiban, MD, MS, Past Chair of the FIT Committee
Other members of the FIT Committee began to express their deep interest in supporting the proposal. FIT Committee leaders started to research parental leave time allotted to other subspecialties to build their case. The proposed changes were shared with the FIT Committee for feedback. Eventually, the FIT Committee shared the proposal with the Program Directors Assembly Executive Committee and the AAAAI Executive Committee. After taking all the feedback into account, the FIT Committee’s proposal was submitted to the ABAI, which was ultimately approved.
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Dr. Panganiban and her children
The old policy allowed two months off for a 24-month program. The new policy has extended this time off by adding two more weeks for any new parent taking leave - without having to make up any time. The two changes adopted by the ABAI that the FIT Committee proposed are:
  • New parents are granted an additional two weeks of leave resulting in a total of six weeks of leave within a year, without requiring extension of fellowship training. These additional two weeks should also not cause a reduction in time off in subsequent years of training.
  • The policy should be inclusive of all new parents including birthing and non-birthing, foster/adoptive parents, and surrogates regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
The Fit Committee's Findings
The ABAI’s current leave policy of four weeks per year is below the median time of 6 weeks per year permitted among other medical specialties.1
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The stress of becoming a new parent, being a fellow, and having limited parental leave makes it difficult to maintain a sense of wellbeing.2,3
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The American Board of Medical Specialties Parental Leave Policy, established in 2021, allows for 6 weeks of time away from training per year without exhausting leave or extending training.
  1. Varda BK, Glover M 4th. Specialty Board Leave Policies for Resident Physicians Requesting Parental Leave. JAMA. 2018;320(22):2374-2377. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.15889
  2. Adesoye T, Mangurian C, Choo EK, et al. Perceived Discrimination Experienced by Physician Mothers and Desired Workplace Changes: A Cross-sectional Survey. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(7):1033-1036. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.1394
  3. Petts RJ. Paternity Leave, Father Involvement, and Parental Conflict: The Moderating Role of Religious Participation. Religions (Basel). 2018;9(10):289. doi:10.3390/rel9100289
  4. (2021). American Board of Medical Specialties Policy on Parental, Caregiver and Medical Leave During Training. ABMS.