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Opinion: Gender representation in medicine

Nobody likes going to the hospital. Fussy kids, the risk of getting sick and the inevitable long wait to be seen are only some of the reasons its a pain. For many, these trips are rare and end with an antibiotic or a new cast, but the experience can be worse for others. Certain demographics, especially women, can experience mild to extreme bias when being treated by a doctor or nurse. According to Vox, women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack than men. An article by the BBC showed that many women experienced dismissal of their symptoms by medical professionals. This can lead to endometriosis, heart conditions and other severe problems going unnoticed.
Although there are genetic differences in how biological women and men perceive pain, this should not cause discrepancies in the doctor’s office. Women are underrepresented in studies and research and our current understanding of medicine is mainly based on male anatomy.
In an interview with Vox, Caroline Criado Perez, a women’s rights activist, said:
“The female body is seen as the atypical body. You see that going all the way back to Aristotle — he refers to the female body as a mutilated male body — and you see it in textbooks today, where the male anatomy is presented as the anatomy.”
This is a problem that can be fixed. We must start by educating students about female and male anatomical differences beyond sex-ed. We need to start equally representing women and men in research studies and segregate the data by sex to ensure there are no differences or inconsistencies, a process known as sex-disaggregating. Doing this will help us better understand sex differences without being discriminatory. We must also train doctors and nurses not to fall victim to this cycle.
Another way to help fix the issue could be to implement diversity training. Women sometimes aren’t taken seriously when they report pain, as previously explained, and teaching doctors and nurses to listen more could be very beneficial. We need to make sure they know how to listen and respect what women say they are feeling.
We need to start learning from the mistakes we make. Though these issues can’t be resolved overnight, that doesn’t mean we should continue to ignore a very obvious problem; women are being mistreated, and they’re paying a heavy cost simply because of the way they were born.

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