When several members of the plastic surgery division at HUP were searching for a way to raise money for a good cause last year, the idea came to take a break from shav­ing – at least the part above their lips. The beneficiary was the Movember Foundation, a global charity established in 2003, “committed to men living happier, healthier, longer lives.” As its site puts it, “Every Movember, we challenge men to grow and women to support a moustache or make a commitment to get active and MOVE for 30 days.” At Penn Med, Fares Samra, M.D., a plastic surgery resident, led the effort. “I have friends who have done this, so I spoke with some of my co-residents and we agreed it would be a fun way to raise money and awareness for a good cause,” he said. In the end, 22 male residents, fel­lows, and attending physicians took part and helped raise nearly $800 for the foundation.

Mustaches also played a prominent role in another re­cent enterprise that included residents at Penn Med – the mustaches were featured in an article that appeared in the Christmas issue of The BMJ, an annual edition filled with lighter takes on scientific issue. The lead author is Mack­enzie R. Wehner, M.D., M.Phil., a dermatology resident at the Perelman School. Another of the authors is Kevin T. Nead, M.D., M.Phil., a resident in radiation oncology and a fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Econom­ics. But although treated lightly, the subject was serious: “Plenty of Moustaches But Not Enough Women: Cross-Sectional Study of Medical Leaders.” Relying on photographs on the websites of top academic institutions in the United States, the researchers found 1,108 people who met the inclusion criteria – chairs, chiefs, or heads of each specialty at top academic institutions in the United States. Their findings: only 13 percent of those positions are held by women. On the other hand, nearly 20 percent are held by men with mustaches. 

The authors approached their task with obvious preci­sion: “We defined a moustache as the visible presence of hair on the upper cutaneous lip and included both stand-alone moustaches (for example, Copstash Standard, Pen­cil, Handlebar, Dali, Supermario) as well as moustaches in combination with other facial hair (for example, Van Dyke, Balbo, The Zappa). . . . We evaluated each leader for the presence of facial hair regardless of sex.”

Their conclusion, however, was definitely straightfor­ward: “Two evidence-based solutions that could be ap­plied to improve [the percentage of women as medical leaders] are the predefining of hiring criteria and innova­tions that allow women flexibility in scheduling their work­ing days and years.”  

Editor’s note: Given that the B in The BMJ stands for British, the journal opts for the British spelling of mustache. Penn Medicine proudly choses the more common American spelling.

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