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Gender awareness among physicians - the effect of speciality and gender: A study of teachers at a Swedish medical school
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine.
2003 (English)In: BMC Medical Education, ISSN 1472-6920, E-ISSN 1472-6920, Vol. 3, no 8Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

BACKGROUND: An important goal for medical education today is professional development including gender equality and awareness of gender issues. Are medical teachers prepared for this task? We investigated gender awareness among physician teachers, expressed as their attitudes towards the role of gender in professional relationships, and how it varied with physician gender and specialty. We discuss how this might be related to the gender climate and sex segregation in different specialties. METHOD: Questionnaires were sent to all 468 specialists in the clinical departments and in family medicine, who were engaged in educating medical students at a Swedish university. They were asked to rate, on visual analogue scales, the importance of physician and patient gender in consultation, of preceptor and student gender in clinical tutoring and of physician gender in other professional encounters. Differences between family physicians, surgical, and non-surgical hospital doctors, and between women and men were estimated by chi-2 tests and multivariate logistic regression analyses. RESULTS: The response rate was 65 %. There were differences between specialty groups in all investigated areas mainly due to disparities among men. The odds for a male family physician to assess gender important were three times higher, and for a male non-surgical doctor two times higher when compared to a male surgical doctor. Female teachers assessed gender important to a higher degree than men. Among women there were no significant differences between specialty groups. CONCLUSIONS: There was an interaction between physician teachers' gender and specialty as to whether they identified gender as important in professional relationships. Male physicians, especially from the surgical group, assessed gender important to a significantly lower degree than female physicians. Physicians' degree of gender awareness may, as one of many factors, affect working climate and the distribution of women and men in different specialties. Therefore, to improve working climate and reduce segregation we suggest efforts to increase gender awareness among physicians, for example educational programs where continuous reflections about gender attitudes are encouraged.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2003. Vol. 3, no 8
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-4045DOI: 10.1186/1472-6920-3-8PubMedID: 14577837OAI: diva2:142997
Available from: 2004-09-07 Created: 2004-09-07 Last updated: 2016-09-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. “I am solely a professional – neutral and genderless”: on gender bias and gender awareness in the medical profession
Open this publication in new window or tab >>“I am solely a professional – neutral and genderless”: on gender bias and gender awareness in the medical profession
2004 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Aim: During the last decades research has reported seemingly unjustified differences between how women and men are perceived as patients, medical students and physicians. Most studies have been performed outside Scandinavia. The overall aim of this thesis is to illustrate, analyse and discuss aspects of gender bias and gender awareness in clinical medicine, medical research and medical education, all in a Swedish setting.

Material and methods: Physicians’ ways of reasoning and reflecting on different professional arenas were investigated from a gender perspective in three cross-sectional studies: A. Written answers from a national examination for 289 Swedish interns where the examinees were allocated to suggest management of a common health problem - irritable bowel syndrome - in either a male or a female paper-patient with identical case descriptions. B. Assessments from 682 physicians, in structured assessment forms, of the scientific quality of two fictive research abstracts - one with a quantitative and one with a qualitative design – where authorship was assigned to either a woman or a man. C. Answers from 303 physician teachers to a questionnaire where they, on scales, assessed the importance of gender in different professional relationships and also gave open-ended comments.

Most analyses were quantitative, using chi2-tests and multivariate logistic regression as statistical methods. Differences were discussed in relation to gender theory. Qualitative method, by way of open and selective coding, was used to explore the open-ended answers in the questionnaire and to create codes from the written answers in the national exam.

Results: A. There were differences in outcome for male and female cases in history taking and in proposed diagnoses, investigations and treatment, e.g. more questions about and tests for alcohol were suggested for men and more tests for thyroid function for women. Both men and women physicians contributed to the gender bias but showed different patterns. B. The quantitative abstract was judged the same regardless of the gender of the assessor or author. The qualitative abstract was not ranked as scientific as the quantitative, but as more accurate, trustworthy, relevant and interesting with a female author especially by women assessors. C. Men physicians, especially in the surgical group, expressed low awareness of gender compared to women physicians. The qualitative analysis rendered a picture of how the physicians perceive ‘gender’, problems they connect with gender and their attitudes to gender issues. Some important concepts identified were ‘inequity’, ‘difference’, ‘delicate situations’, and ‘resistance’. To get an overview and better understanding of various expressions of gender bias, a theoretical model was developed, on the basis of the findings in the qualitative analysis. The main findings of the thesis are discussed in relation to this model where equity/inequity and sameness/difference are important points of departure.

Conclusions: The findings of gendered outcome in the national exam call attention to ‘knowledge-mediated gender bias’, a phenomenon implying that once knowledge of gender differences in a condition has been established this might cause gender biased assessments of individual patients in the clinical situation. Gender appears to affect scientific evaluations. This has implications for situations where research is assessed and interpreted: in medical tutoring, research guidance, peer reviewing, and in forming evaluation committees for research funding. Physician teachers seem little aware of gender as an area of competence and knowledge and tend to connect gender issues with women. Depending on how ‘difference’ and ‘equity’ are apprehended various forms of resistance to gender emerge, each with plausible bias risks. Educational programmes for faculty members, encouraging continuous reflections on gender attitudes and supporting male participation, are suggested. Besides providing a more comprehensive understanding of patients and their health problems, increased gender awareness among physicians might improve the working climate and help reduce the gendered division of labour in the medical profession.

71 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 907
Gender, gender bias, gender awareness, physicians, clinical decision-making, research evaluation, medical education, medical teachers, tutors, division of labour
Research subject
hälso- och sjukvårdsforskning
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-300 (URN)91-7305-701-0 (ISBN)
External cooperation:
Public defence
2004-09-17, Rosa salen, 9B, 13:00
Available from: 2004-09-07 Created: 2004-09-07 Last updated: 2016-09-05Bibliographically approved

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