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How much does gender matter when choosing an OB/GYN?

October 3, 2012 in Medical Care

2012 will be my 15th year as a Urogynecologist – an OB/GYN who specializes in the treatment of incontinence and pelvic prolapse.  Every so often a patient will ask me or one of the staff members in my office “wouldn’t I be better off going to a female doctor for these problems?” This is a legitimate question.  As a male practitioner of women’s medicine and surgery, here are some of my thoughts:

One assumption you might make is that women must be inherently better as OB/GYN’s because of their personal experience of being female, but this isn’t as much of a plus as it might seem.  Sometimes your personal experience may actually impair your ability to empathize with someone having a different experience from you. If I was female and never experienced painful menstrual cramps and you (my patient) were terribly bothered by them, I might discount your experience.  Deep understanding and empathy come from participating in the care of thousands of women with gynecologic problems and all the different experiences they have, and choices that they make. 
Let me be clear.  I am NOT in any way implying that males are inherently BETTER as OB/GYN’s. All successful physicians derive their competency from the sum of their experience of listening to thousands of patients. I have not heard any discussion about whether or not only people who have had cancer can truly be competent as oncologists.  Read the rest of this entry →