I love medicine and I love the human body (a feeling pursue sapiance captures nicely here) and it pains me a little to hear medicine described as an all-out racist, sexist, and heteronormative medical-pharmaceutical complex because I feel as if all medical professionals are being tarred with the same brush. I know of students and medical professionals who not only know their science, but are also socially conscious. (I like to think of myself among their ranks). I'd much rather highlight the efforts of people trying to do something about the outdated ideas that exists in medicine.
I especially admire a professor for her gender-balanced lecture on sexually transmitted infections. I think it shows that not only can you be a doctor and still have a heart, but small but meaningful change from within is possible.
I had this professor for a human pathophysiology course, the study of human diseases. When we arrived in class for the lecture was on sexually transmitted infections, my professor began by saying that she made changes to the lecture notes left by the last professor who taught this class. The last professor did not discuss STIs in females! No talk of signs and symptoms, manifestations, treatments, modes of transmission of STIs for females. My professor was appalled by this omission and made sure to include these discussions in her lecture.
She explained that perhaps because many STIs have few signs and symptoms in women, the previous professor thought it was acceptable to exclude any discussion of them. The causes of STIs -- the kind of virus or bacteria -- would already be covered in discussions of STIs in males. Of course this excuse didn't make much sense to my professor and me. Even if there are few symptoms in women, it is important for students and sexually active people to know that there are few symptoms in women so that we can be all the more vigilant.
I especially admire a professor for her gender-balanced lecture on sexually transmitted infections. I think it shows that not only can you be a doctor and still have a heart, but small but meaningful change from within is possible. Even though she did not re-educate years of students for whom this important demographic was missing from their human pathophysiology education in STIs, I still think it was good of her to point out this omission. She could have just changed the lecture and given it without any of the students knowing about the previous version. In explaining it to us, she taught us that medicine is still riddled with pockets of misconceptions and outdated information, but that she as the new instructor and we as students, are capable of teaching and learning better medicine.
This brings me to a point about medical education. My professor prefaced her explanation of the STI omission (and indeed apologized for delaying the start of her lecture) by acknowledging that she was an anthropology major as an undergrad. With that perspective, she was able to easily spot the embedded in medicine. It also restored my belief that my non-science education as a Comparative Cultures and Politics major in the college of public affairs will still pop up to shape the way I see medicine. Because sometimes all the talk of non-science majors, well-rounded students sounds like meaningless admissions committee blather.
Let's not forget that women make up an increasing proportion of medical school students, which can only be a good thing. In 2008, 47.9% of medical school students were female. It's not quite equal yet, but in 1988, it was 35.2% and a mere 8.8% in 1968. (Source: AAMC )I think many women, not necessarily anthropology majors, will be watchful for accurate medical information about themselves.
All this, good things for medicine. Keep women and anthro majors coming in medical school.