In September, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology changed their definition of what it means to be a board certified gynecologist: you can only treat women. "What?" you might be saying to yourself. "Hasn't that always been the case?" Nope, and this new limitation isn't a good thing.
"Certification by ABOG is limited to physicians whom ABOG considers to have demonstrated special knowledge and professional qualifications relating to Obstetrics and Gynecology who limit their practice to the care of women," the ABOG wrote in September, before clarifying in which limited cases gynecologists are allowed to treat men:
In addition, to remain certified by ABOG the care of male patients is prohibited except in the following circumstances:
- Active government service,
- Evaluation of fertility,
- Genetic counseling and testing of a couple,
- Expedited partner treatment of sexually transmitted diseases,
- Administration of immunizations,
- Management of transgender conditions,
- Emergency care when the Diplomate is required by their hospital to participate in general emergency care,
- Family planning services, not to include vasectomy, and
- Newborn circumcision.
Why is this a problem? Because of anal cancer, often caused by HPV, which many gynecologists specialize in. In a FAQ section on its website, the ABOG explains that doctors who have traditionally done anoscopys – a procedure where the doctor looks inside the anus to see if there are any precancerous lesions – on male patients no longer allowed to do so and continue to call themselves gynecologists. According to the New York Times, this has meant that gynecologists who previously treated both men and women for anal cancer are now caught in a predicament. Dr. Elizabeth Stier, a doctor involved in a multi-million dollar study researching the treatment of anal cancer told the Times that by not being allowed to treat men, she's cutting off many lower-income and minority patients, some of whom suffer from H.I.V., are homeless and have histories of drug addiction. Additionally, she's concerned about the stigma involved with anal cancer, and the comfort level many of her patients will have with finding a new doctor.
From an outside perspective, it's a bizarre move. The ABOG claims they're making this change because some doctors have moved into territories that aren't really what they want board certified gynecologists to concern themselves with, like "aesthetic medicine, cosmetic surgery, liposuction and psychotherapy." But why would making gynecologists only for women change that? For the most part, gynecologists are already doctors devoted to women – it's not as though the demands of the male population is making it difficult for women to get the care they need. To argue that cutting men out of the picture would focus the work gynecologists do works in theory, but the real problem here seems to be gynecologists who are tainting the field by performing cosmetic vaginoplasties, not those are doing the work of real medical professionals.
Image via Fox