University takes on gender bias in medical schools

Carole Clair and Joëlle Schwarz, joint heads of the Medical and Gender unit at the University of Lausanne’s Centre of General Medicine and Public Health (Unisanté), want aspiring doctors to know about gender differences. Women and men have different risks for certain diseases and often experience diseases differently, which can have a fundamental impact on how a disease is diagnosed and treated. Yet medical schools rarely address sex and gender in their curriculum except when teaching reproductive health, writes Ying Zhang for SwissInfo.ch.

Gender bias usually refers to unintended, but systematic, neglect of either women or men, with serious, negative effects on medical diagnoses and on the quality of healthcare people receive. For example, women are less likely to be given painkillers for the same pain men are experiencing, and lacking awareness of women’s heart disease may lead to doctors delaying the diagnosis of their patients.

Clair and Schwarz recognise that gender differences have long been overlooked in medicine, even in countries with a high standard of education like Switzerland. They want to change this, one university at a time. Already in 2017, Clair and colleagues conducted a pilot study with colleagues to assess gender sensitivity and the presence of stereotypes among medical students at the University of Lausanne. They found that while the students showed a certain level of interest in the topic of gender in medicine, they were generally guided by stereotypes and tended to take the male perspective as the norm in clinical practice.
Full report on the SwissInfo.ch site