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Do Men Make Better Gynecologists?

Illustration for article titled Do Men Make Better Gynecologists?

Once, during a painful examination, a female gynecologist snapped at me, "You think this is hard for you? Imagine how I feel." According to a tidbit in the Times today, I might be better off with a male doctor.


A female doctor writes that "several studies have shown that female doctors tend to be more encouraging and reassuring, use shared decision-making, ask more psychosocial questions and spend more time - up to 10 percent more - with patients than male doctors do." Of course, perspectives on this differ by the patients' gender, and there is one interesting exception where the patient is always a woman: gynecology.

Perhaps the most interesting finding in these studies of gender in the patient-doctor relationship involves male doctors who practice obstetrics and gynecology. While this group of male physicians has been shown to be significantly better than their female colleagues at showing empathy and talking to patients about their emotional concerns, many of their patients continue to have a strong preference for female doctors.


There isn't much more detail, although one could imagine that male ob-gyns try harder to bond with their patients because they don't take the connection for granted. One commenter on the Times' Well blog cites personal experience for why shared femaleness might actually hamper a patient-doctor relationship:

Illustration for article titled Do Men Make Better Gynecologists?

On the other hand, by her own account, this woman didn't have much luck with male doctors either. And re-reading Doree Shafrir's classic "Gynos Say The Darndest Things," (it originally appeared in Radar and is still preserved online here) shows that harrowing and discomforting experiences happen in this realm regardless of the doctor's gender. (My personal favorite: "I went to a gyno in L.A. who was Persian (there are lots of Persian Jews in Beverly Hills). He told me I had more of Persian vagina/hair layout than Ashkenaziâ?? I guess because I hadn't waxed?"). So what's going on here? Is doctor-patient communication any worse in this realm than the rest of medicine? Do we just hear about it more because conversations about vaginas and sexual health are still so difficult to have?

Do Women Make Better Doctors? [NYT]
Do Men And Women Doctor Differently? [NYT Well blog]
Gyno Say The Darndest Things [Radar via Daily Strength]



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I think there is some truth in the idea that men may work harder because they don't take the connection for granted. In my experience (which, truthfully, is a sample size of 3 - and this is in observing, not being on the receiving end), men were slightly more friendly, less businesslike, and 'softer' if that makes sense.

I think it may be because men probably still retain a feeling of being invited into a very private, personal area that men are usually not very much a part of (female reproductive health in general). On the other hand, women experience this themselves, so they're more comfortable, and get much more blazé about it. Unfortunately many of the patients are not nearly so comfortable! I think many female doctors just get used to discussing and doing the same things over and over, so they're no big deal - forgetting that they can still be a VERY big deal for the patients, who obviously AREN'T doing this every day.

Men, on the other hand, might be kept more aware of this on a day-to-day basis by knowing that they have no first-hand experience with what they're doing, and so will tread a more cautious path, as opposed to a woman who might think 'Well I'm fine with this, so everyone must be.'