Women Are Not Mini Men. Just Listen to John Oliver.
By Stacey E. Rosen
If you are a woman, or you are fond of any, and you haven’t already seen John Oliver’s show Bias In Medicine on Last Night Tonight, allow me to recommend that you watch it. Now.
It is funny, but also shocking.
The show focuses on sex and race bias in medicine. My focus here is on the sex bias. As Mr. Oliver points out, “historically, medicine has studied men’s bodies … as a proxy for all bodies.” He’s right. We make discoveries about prevention, diagnosis and treatment on men, and assume the results would be the same for women—instead of leaning into the question of whether, and how, women’s bodies might be different.
In fact, women are not little men. Medical conditions often present differently in women than in men. Additionally, there are many conditions that affect women disproportionately. We don’t know why. Yet. Women are grossly underrepresented in clinical research, and medical science has left the differences between the two sexes an unexplored frontier.
Watching this show, you may find yourself asking the question, “Is anyone doing anything about this?” Happily, the answer is yes. We are. At Northwell Health, we know that women’s health needs are unique. So we created a collaborative institute focused on this expanded view of women’s health. The Katz Institute for Women’s Health offers an innovative care model that meets women’s health and wellness needs at every stage of her life. We have clinicians and scientists working together on women’s health. Today and every day, we’re narrowing the disparities.
Not only are we focused on the sex differences in diagnosis and treatment, we are also focused on the role women play in the interface between medicine and families. The woman is the “chief medical officer” for her family. She makes the doctor’s appointments for her kids, her spouse, perhaps even her parents (the daughter-care crisis is something else we need to talk about). She takes them to their doctor’s appointments. She fills out the forms, schedules the tests, makes sure medicines are taken. While she does all this, along with her day job, who’s taking care of her? Research shows that keeping women healthier leads to healthier families and healthier communities. That’s another good reason to make sure women’s health needs are understood, and met.
We’re not going to settle for the norm in health care. We see it differently. We want to end the bias based on sex. We are singularly focused on a better, smarter and kinder approach to women’s health. We see a bright future ahead for women everywhere, because we deserve it. And the time to conquer this frontier is now.
Dr. Stacey E. Rosen is Vice President, Women’s Health, Katz Institute for Women’s Health. She is a cardiologist with decades of experience caring for women with heart disease. She is passionate about recognizing the distinct health needs of women, and empowering women with information and resources to optimize their health and well-being. The Katz Institute for Women’s Health is a champion for women’s wellness.