• Patricia Grayhall

Do Women Make Better Doctors?




Female physicians have been linked to improved patient outcomes in numerous studies, according to a systematic review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.


They reviewed several studies with similar findings. One revealed that patient mortality after a myocardial infarction was highest when a female patient’s physician was male.


The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports evidence showing that women physicians spend more time with their patients, are more likely to adhere to guidelines, offer more follow-up care and are more careful in their prescribing practices. They’re also more likely to address mental-health concerns and establish collaborative partnerships with their patients.


Is it surprising that patients of female doctors have fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits than those of male doctors? This difference is even more pronounced for patients with complex medical issues.


One study reported in the Washington Post found that if male doctors were able to do as well as their female counterparts when treating elderly patients in the hospital, they could save 32,000 lives a year, according to a study of 1.5 million hospital visits.


There has been a steady rise of women physicians in medical school and in practice. When I started medical school in 1971, I was only 1 of 5 women in my class of 100. I was the only women in my medical internship. The macho culture of medical training harmed residents and patients alike.


In 1972, Title IX prohibiting gender discrimination in education went into effect and more and more women entered medical school. Now the female-male ratio is about 50-50. The proportion of women in active practice, just over 36%, is likely to increase as these medical students progress in their training.


Women are still concentrated in the lower paying specialties of pediatrics, primary care internal medicine, and family practice. Even accounting for specialty, women physicians earn less than their male counterparts. A New York Times article by Azeen Ghorayshi reported that over the course of a 40-year-career, the pay gap between men and women adds up to at least $2 million.


If you have a male doctor you like and with whom you have a good rapport, I am not suggesting you should trade him in for a female doctor. The above observations are group averages and there is much variability among individuals of both sexes. But if you have a woman doctor that you like, who listens carefully to your story, provides age-appropriate preventive care, and is there for you when you need her, consider yourself blessed.


What is your experience with your doctor?