The New York Times recently posted an article by Abigal Zuger, MD, examining the psychology–and clinical relevance–of patient care influenced by “interpersonal chemistry.” Dr. Zuger observes that many women note they have interpersonal chemistry that “binds” them to other women, and prefer women healthcare professionals because of this. In fairness, the article did emphasize that all of us have “interpersonal chemistry that binds us to some and estranges us from others.”
As a male gynecologist, I have often wondered about my patients’—and prospective patients’—comfort level in building a relationship with me—a male practitioner. Even though I have 35+ years of experience, I know there are those who believe that a male gynecologist could never be as empathic or effective as a female healthcare professional.
I’d like to propose consideration on the concept of discrimination in this context. Hear me out: Whenever one discriminates, whether by race, age, color, sexual orientation, or in this case “interpersonal chemistry,” i.e. gender, she (or he) is likely to end up with an inferior product or service.
I believe that in this age, the information age, there is no excuse for not investigating the practitioner caring for your health, sexual well-being, and, well…your life…before making a commitment and establishing a relationship with a healthcare professional. After all, it is a relationship you should strive for; one where you get to know each other, and establish a rapport that allows your practitioner to know you and care for you at all stages in your life. This means you may need to ask the hard questions: Is your gynecologist board certified, experienced in “what ails ya,” even published on the subject? Has she or he been recognized by her/his peers as a leader or expert in the field? Does he or she truly listen to your concerns, ask the difficult questions, respond when you need counsel, and advocate on your behalf? These are the qualities that patients should ask and weigh as they make decisions about their long-term health and well-being.
Nearly every study I have seen documents that female gynecologists and male gynecologists have nearly identical patterns of patient behavior if their training was similar, and that all objective outcomes of their care are likewise the same.
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