Dr. Joseph Sirven: Women Take The Field

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2018 - 9:02am

For some medical specialties, it seems that women vastly outnumber men. Medical commentator Dr. Joseph Sirven explains.

During a routine consultation, my patient shared that her daughter had just had a baby. She asked, “Why didn’t you choose a specialty like obstetrics?”

I answered, “My medical school OB experience was not my best. When I was in my third year of medical school, my male supervising OB resident left me alone with a woman in seemingly early labor and told me, and I quote here: ‘Make sure the patient does not deliver while I have dinner.’

"I, being a plucky but naive medical student, sat there trying to have this lady not deliver her baby by telling her ‘Don’t push! Don’t push!’ To keep this long story short, I was found by that supervising resident with the laboring mother pushing while gripping my stethoscope in a stranglehold around my neck so I might better empathize with her plight. I knew then and there that OB was not my professional calling.”

For generations, the world of OB has been dominated by a Norman Rockwell image of a man delivering babies. Yet, according to the most recent statistics from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that concept has clearly passed.

Almost 82 percent of all OB-GYN’s in the American OB training programs are now women.

The rise of female OBs should not be surprising given that it may be driven by patient demand. One recent study of global surveys of almost 10,000 women conducted from 1999 to 2015 showed that 8.4 percent preferred a male OB, whereas 53 percent preferred a female OB, and the rest had no gender preference.

With 50 percent of all medical school admissions now women, it stands to follow that we will likely see an increase in women in previously male dominated specialties.

Patients, like all of us, often feel more comfortable with certain physician genders and that’s OK. If you really have such a preference just ask for it. There is no need to explain.


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