Fewer male doctors in the field of gynecology raises debate

Doctors talking
By 2025, female gynecologists may make up two-thirds of the specialty. (Image: Getty/wmiami)

Like the rest of medicine, men once dominated the field of obstetrics/gynecology, but that has changed.

Now, 59% of OB-GYNs are women and the number of male doctors in the specialty is dropping, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Some men fear the decreasing number of male OB-GYNs could lead them to being excluded from the specialty in which all the patients are female, according to the newspaper.

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Some patients feel more comfortable with a female physician and male medical students say OB-GYN patients often ask that they not be in the exam room. Men are less likely to pursue the specialty and only about 17% of current OB-GYN residents are male.

Not everyone is happy about the trend, with critics like Reshma Jagsi, M.D., saying it could weaken the field. Jagsi, who studies gender issues in medicine at the University of Michigan, told the newspaper that diversity improves the quality of care by providing varying perspectives to make advances in a field.

Now 82% of residents training to be OB-GYNs are women. Perhaps ironically, men may have an advantage pursuing OB-GYN residency slots as programs look to include male doctors, according to the article.

It’s expected that by 2025, female gynecologists will make up two-thirds of the specialty.

In response to the Times article, Lisa Hollier, M.D., the incoming president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a letter to the editor that the field welcomes all medical students and residents no matter their gender.

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“We should celebrate that the obstetrics and gynecology field creates opportunity for women to lead and excel in ways medicine has traditionally excluded them,” she said.

The field may need doctors of both sexes. With an aging workforce, the country may soon be facing a shortage of obstetrician/gynecologists, according to a Doximity report released last year. One-third of all OB-GYNs in 38 major metropolitan areas are 55 years or older, and a coming retirement wave could leave women searching for doctors.

The coming shortage of OB-GYNs comes at the same time the U.S. is grappling with the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world; efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to many women, are taking place, and healthcare leaders fear immigration policies will limit foreign doctors.