The Gender of Medicine

From the Kennedy Krieger Annual Autism Conference in Baltimore, MD:

EGMN writers have a very unique perspective on medicine.  We cover medical meetings in dozens of specialties every year. This breadth allows us to see patterns that might not be so obvious to anyone, who attends meetings in a single specialty.  One of the things that I usually notice is the mix of genders present at a medical meeting.  Sometimes, it’s hard not to notice.  Today at the annual autism conference put on by Kennedy Krieger, it was hard to find the men in the room.  The spillover audience was probably 97% female.

It’s very striking when one gender is so over-represented at a meeting.  There are some very clear gender lines that I’ve seen.  The autism meeting today was primarily women, but I’ve been one of a handful of women at vascular surgery meetings, cardiology meetings, and neurosurgery meetings. In my experience psychiatric/therapy meetings skew slightly more toward women, as do obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics. In general, men tend toward more technical specialties, while women tend toward care-oriented specialties.

That’s not to imply that there isn’t some very hard research on autism being done.  Today I heard from Dr. Sarah Spence at NIH about work looking at the neurobiological and autoimmune components of autism spectrum disorders.  However, in talking with a few audience members today, I found their interest was in practical information that they could use in assessing and working with children with autism spectrum disorders.

It may be that women are overrepresented at some meetings because physicians make up only a small portion of the attendance.  A fair number of meetings are well attended by nurses, psychologists, social workers, and other allied health professionals — disciplines that attract a lot of women.

I’m not sure what to make of the gender patterns in medicine that I’ve noticed.  I’d be very interested to hear what others think.

–Kerri Wachter

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Filed under Neurology and Neurological Surgery, Pediatrics, Psychiatry

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