Medicine regardless gender: a call for equity

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Amanda Marques Garcia and Letícia Camargo Costa, two 4th year medical students at Barretos School of Health Sciences Dr. Paulo Prata (FACISB), Brazil. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Medicine has an important foundation in humanistic ideals aiming to alleviate suffering, rehabilitate, promote health and quality of life. Thus, the medical function is based on the treatment of diseases and humanized health care, which, in this context, are independent of gender. Worldwide, medicine is a predominantly a male profession, and for the first time in the past two years, women have become the majority in medical schools, leading to a greater representation of women professionals in the future. This change is an important element in the evolution of medicine, generating impacts on the organization of health services, in order to provide greater gender equality in terms of opportunities, remuneration and occupation of specialties.

In a society with deep-seated problems, it is necessary people willing to break standards in order to achieve rights and freedom. Thus, there was a historic effort by women to conquer places previously occupied exclusively by men, for example, in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate in Medicine in New York. From there, others followed suit, and as early as 1920, in Brazil, women represented 21.49% of doctors. In 2010, the percentage rose to 39.91%, with a worldwide trend of growth, so that, in 2020, it reached 50%(1).

Even with the percentage increase of women in medicine, there are still significant gender differences in medical practice, such as the smaller number of women in specialties of greater socioeconomic prestige. As an example, in 2012, in Brazil, the percentage of men and women in the specialty of general surgery were, respectively, 83.8% and 16.2%(1). The reasons that women feel discouraged to choose such specialties include less professional valorization, lower remuneration and less opportunities for career advancement compared to men. In 2020, a publication in the Journal of Vascular Surgery(2) evaluated the social networks of vascular surgeons and was considered unprofessional content “provocative posts in bikinis/swimwear”. This resulted in the MedBikini movement, which took on a huge proportion on social media, due to the undue correlation between professional capacity of women and publications with swimsuits on social media. These gender inequalities naturalized in medical practice should be disarmed in the present for a better future.

Today, women are gradually occupying important roles in Medicine and Science, but there is still a long way to fight for equity in medicine in terms of rights, recognition, respect, socioeconomic working conditions, and occupying leadership positions. Therefore, it is required global efforts for encouraging women, breaking stereotypes and promoting new and better opportunities. We conclude that medicine needs well-trained, humanized and committed professionals on their causes for the benefit of society and health systems, regardless of gender.

References

1. Scheffer MC, Cassenote AJF. A feminização da medicina no Brasil. Rev Bioética. 2013;21(2). 

2. Hardouin S, Cheng TW, Mitchell EL, Raulli SJ, Jones DW, Siracuse JJ, et al. Prevalence of unprofessional social media content among young vascular surgeons. Vol. 72, Journal of Vascular Surgery. 2020

About the authors

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Amanda Marques Garcia and Letícia Camargo Costa, two 4th year medical students at Barretos School of Health Sciences Dr. Paulo Prata (FACISB), Brazil. Amanda is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

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