The Policy Gap: A Survey of Patient-Perpetrated Sexual Harassment Policies for Residents and Fellows in Prominent US Hospitals

  • Elizabeth M. VigliantiEmail author
  • Andrea L. Oliverio
  • Thomas M. Cascino
  • Lisa M. Meeks
Concise Research Reports

One in five physicians has experienced sexual harassment by patients.1 The 2018 National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report on sexual harassment highlights the burden of patient-perpetrated sexual harassment, and calls for clear institutional policies to combat this in order to foster culture change.2

Despite the prevalence of patient-perpetrated sexual harassment and guidance from the NASEM report, it remains unknown to what extent graduate medical education (GME) training programs maintain policies and guidance that address patient-perpetrated sexual harassment.


Following IRB approval, we conducted a web-based survey of designated institutional officials (DIO) at the top 20 US hospitals as identified by US News and World Report “Best Hospital” rankings in 2017.3Weekly reminder emails were sent for one month with subsequent letters and phone calls (maximum of three telephone calls) to nonresponding DIOs. Two hospitals shared a DIO, resulting in a...



The authors wish to thank Dr. Theodore J. Iwashyna for his continued support.


This work was financially supported by NIH grants T32 HL7749-25 (EMV), T32 DK007378-38 (ALO), and T32-HL007853 (TMC).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.


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    The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2018.Google Scholar
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    The U.S. News and World Report. US. U.S news announces 2017–18 best hospitals. Available at: Accessed June 25, 2019.
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    Viglianti EM, Oliverio AL, Meeks LM. Sexual harassment and abuse: when the patient is the perpetrator. Lancet 2018; 392: 368–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth M. Viglianti
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea L. Oliverio
    • 2
  • Thomas M. Cascino
    • 3
  • Lisa M. Meeks
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Internal Medicine Division of Pulmonary and Critical CareUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Internal Medicine Division of NephrologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Internal Medicine Division of Cardiovascular MedicineUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of Family MedicineUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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