gms | German Medical Science

12th Graz Conference – Quality of Teaching

18.09. - 20.09.2008 in Graz, Österreich

Gender and Medicine: What are appropriate ways to place these concepts in the Medical Curriculum?


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  • corresponding author Carin Muhr - Uppsala University, Department of Neuroscience, Neurology, Uppsala, Schweden

12. Grazer Konferenz - Qualität der Lehre: Skills and Attitudes. Graz, Österreich, 18.-20.09.2008. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2009. Doc08grako11

doi: 10.3205/08grako11, urn:nbn:de:0183-08grako115

Received: January 15, 2009
Revised: February 5, 2009
Accepted: February 18, 2009
Published: April 6, 2009

© 2009 Muhr.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.


The workshop presented experiences from elective courses in Gender Medicine, International Gender Medicine courses and an International Course in Cultural Competency with gender perspective at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Gender in Medical education is to be considered as transformative learning to create awareness about the importance of Gender Competency and provide evidence how Gender Competency improves medical care.

Methods included elective courses to enable intense and specialised courses and provide positive learning climate and stimulate active student participation via project work, discussions and reflections.

Mainstreaming was also encouraged to facilitate continous gender perspective to be applied.

Lectures and Seminars addressed subjects: Gender competency, Gender awareness, Gender sensitivity. Gender contract and Gender roles. Gender differences in diseases, and the impact of these in daily medical practice. Psychosocial situations of women and men and implications on health issues. Domestic violence. The impact of culture on gender roles and health issues. Doctor-patient relationship and communication skills from a gender perspective.

Students should take active part with project work, role plays and small group discussions, preferably led by senior students. Examination, e. g. presentation of the project work, with a fellow student as opponent, and credits.

Rational: Research has clearly brought forth evidence that gender differences are important to take into accout as not to misjudge medical situations. In cardiology the commonly used dignostic criteria for myocardial infarction was found to give a description of signs and symptoms suitable for men but could even be misleading when applied in women. Other diseases are mental depression, eating disorders, osteoporosis, rheumatological disorders, headache, suceptibility to environmental factors, infections, efficacy and side effects of medication. These biological differences constitute a solid base and are easily accepted as important. Furthermore, abuse and violence show strong gender patterns and domestic violence is essential to address as the affected women and children need to be diagnosed properly and cared for by doctors.

The life situation of women and men is to a high degree dictated by gender roles in society. We, teachers and students, are all part of these and we must become aware of our own cultural norms and beliefs of which gender roles are important. Interaction with persons from other cultures will make it easier and less problematic to see values and attitudes which are not our own. ”Gender contracts” define what is appropriate for a man and a woman, both concerning family and professional life. Women and their activities are in many cultures seen as less valuable. Statistics also in Sweden reveals that women more often than men get less qualified medical care.

All these factors play a major role directly on health issues and, moreover, increase the stress burden on many patients and cause stress related syndromes and increase the burden on a person already faced with an illness. Many of the illnesses today are to a considerable part caused by or aggravated by psychosocial problems that are gender related.

In summary: Gender competency with an awareness of how gender roles and norms affect health issues and influence doctor-patient interactions, is of paramount importance in the medical care of patients of both genders. Students will need to realize this. When students are allowed to take active part in the teaching (e.g. through small group discussions, role plays and project work) their learning will enhance. A multicultural participation will facilitate the understanding of gender roles and increase gender sensitivity.