sheMD Journal Club

Women More Likely to Survive Heart Attack

If ER Doctor Is Female

There was a recent article that was published on female physicians and the management of heart attacks in women. This research has been all over the news and social media recently, and I think its worth a discussion.

 

Headlines are stating, "Women more likely to survive heart attacks if treated by female doctors"and "Women more likely to survive heart attack if ER physician is female."

 

The actual research article is titled, Patient–physician gender concordance and increased mortality among female heart attack patients. It is a retrospective study (looking at PAST data) from 1991 to 2010 looking at data from the state of Florida's database. The study required pretty in-depth statistics to look at gender concordance. They concluded that female patients were less likely to survive an MI if treated by a male physician than if treated by a female physician. They also found that male physicians did a better job of treating female patients if they have more female patient exposure and more female colleagues. 


The news/social media posts on this research are asserting that female doctors are better. I'm not sure that this data can support that any sex of doctor is better. I think that there are a lot of confounding variables in this study. But I think it highlights some extremely important points about gender and medicine as well as medical education. 


First of all, we have to realize that gender affects our DOCTOR-PATIENT relationship. There are elements of gender bias from both the physician and the patient that affect the doctor-patient relationship. As we stated in yesterdays Gender & Medical Education post, we HAVE TO check our gender biases. We have to know them and realize when they are coming into play. 


Also gender affects MEDICINE. Women DO NOT have the same heart attack symptoms as men, making the diagnosis more challenging. Men have "typical" chest pain in MI. Women have "atypical" symptoms - but those "atypical" symptoms are TYPICAL for women. Maybe we need to adjust how we are TEACHING medicine.