From gender bias to gender awareness in medical education

Petra Verdonk*, Yvonne W.M. Benschop, Hanneke C.J.M. De Haes, Toine L.M. Lagro-Janssen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Gender is an essential determinant of health and illness. Gender awareness in doctors contributes to equity and equality in health and aims towards better health for men and women. Nevertheless, gender has largely been ignored in medicine. First, it is stated that medicine was 'gender blind' by not considering gender whenever relevant. Secondly, medicine is said to be 'male biased' because the largest body of knowledge on health and illness is about men and their health. Thirdly, gender role ideology negatively influences treatment and health outcomes. Finally, gender inequality has been overlooked as a determinant of health and illness. The uptake of gender issues in medical education brings about specific challenges for several reasons. For instance, the political-ideological connotations of gender issues create resistance especially in traditionalists in medical schools. Secondly, it is necessary to clarify which gender issues must be integrated in which domains. Also, some are interdisciplinary issues and as such more difficult to integrate. Finally, schools need assistance with implementation. The integration of psychosocial issues along with biomedical ones in clinical cases, the dissemination of literature and education material, staff education, and efforts towards structural embedding of gender in curricula are determining factors for successful implementation. Gender equity is not a spontaneous process. Medical education provides specific opportunities that may contribute to transformation for medical schools educate future doctors for future patients in future settings. Consequently, future benefits legitimize the integration of gender as a qualitative investment in medical education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-152
Number of pages18
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009

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