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Attitudes toward and experiences of gender issues among physician teachers: A survey study conducted at a university teaching hospital in Sweden

Author(s): Risberg Gunilla | Johansson Eva | Westman Göran | Hamberg Katarina

Journal: BMC Medical Education
ISSN 1472-6920

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 10;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Abstract Background Gender issues are important to address during medical education, however research about the implementation of gender in medical curricula reports that there are obstacles. The aim of this study was to explore physician teachers' attitudes to gender issues. Methods As part of a questionnaire, physician teachers at Umeå University in Sweden were given open-ended questions about explanations for and asked to write examples why they found gender important or not. The 1 469 comments from the 243 respondents (78 women, 165 men) were analyzed by way of content analysis. The proportion of comments made by men and women in each category was compared. Results We found three themes in our analysis: Understandings of gender, problems connected with gender and approaches to gender. Gender was associated with differences between women and men regarding behaviour and disease, as well as with inequality of life conditions. Problems connected with gender included: delicate situations involving investigations of intimate body parts or sexual attraction, different expectations on male and female physicians and students, and difficulty fully understanding the experience of people of the opposite sex. The three approaches to gender that appeared in the comments were: 1) avoidance, implying that the importance of gender in professional relationships was recognized but minimized by comparing gender with aspects, such as personality and neutrality; 2) simplification, implying that gender related problems were easy to address, or already solved; and 3) awareness, implying that the respondent was interested in gender issues or had some insights in research about gender. Only a few individuals described gender as an area of competence and knowledge. There were comments from men and women in all categories, but there were differences in the relative weight for some categories. For example, recognizing gender inequities was more pronounced in the comments from women and avoidance more common in comments from men. Conclusion The surveyed physician teachers gave many examples of gender-related problems in medical work and education, but comments describing gender as an area of competence and knowledge were few. Approaches to gender characterized by avoidance and simplification suggest that faculty development programs on gender need to address and reflect on attitudes as well as knowledge.
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