Investing in Health

Do women make better doctors?  A recent editorial by Pauline Chen, M.D. in the New York Times posed this thought-provoking question, which led me to recall my previous experiences with physicians of both genders.  It is an interesting concept when you think about it.  So many of the same qualities that mothers generally have – caring, compassion and a nurturing spirit – were possessed by many of the women doctors that I have interacted with.  I won’t go so far as to say that I prefer a female physician over a male, but just based on past experiences, I felt more comfortable when cared for by a female physician.  And while research studies do support the theory that female doctors are considered “better” in the patient’s perspective, the literature also indicates that the patient’s gender also plays an important role.  Dr. Chen indicates that female patients had particular expectations depending on their physician’s gender.  For example, when seen by female physicians, they reported satisfaction when physicians expressed great concern and empathy during the visit.  In contrast, female patients were more satisfied with male physicians who did not overtly show concern or empathy.  Male patients, on the other hand reported satisfaction, regardless of the physician’s gender.  Moreover, female patients were more likely to engage in discussions with their physician regarding their illness compared to their male counterparts.

What does all this actually mean?  Dr. Chen hopes this research serves as a learning opportunity for male students in medical school in order to be as effective in dealing with patients of both genders.  From the patient’s perspective, male health can improve drastically by being as proactive as females are when dealing with health matters.  From my experience working at various health fairs and events while at Men’s Health Network, women were more likely to engage in health-related discussions and participate in free health screenings compared to men.  As May comes to an end, June provides men with a great opportunity.  The entire month in June features local events available to men nationwide in order to raise their awareness on male-specific health concerns.  Men’s Health Network compiles a list of activities from its affiliates across the country in a calendar found on its website, which you can find here.

Men, now is the time to focus on your health.  Much like investing money to prepare for retirement, we should invest in our health now so that we can equally enjoy life in the future.

If you have any ideas, suggestions or want to share your past experiences, please contact me at

Ramon P. Llamas, MPH, CHES

View posts by Ramon P. Llamas, MPH, CHES
Ramon holds a Masters in Public Health degree with an emphasis on health promotion and health education from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and a BS in biological sciences and biomedical engineering from the University of California, Irvine. He is a member of the Men's Health Caucus of the American Public Health Association. His background includes health promotion at the US DHHS in Washington, DC and Director of Programs for Men's Health Network.


  1. AnonMay 28, 2010

    Good health is everyone’s business.

  2. NicoleMay 28, 2010

    I am not surprised by this study. In my life experiences, women have been more empathetic than men, thus receiving empathy from a man in regards to health has always been reassuring for me. Some patients seek answers/solutions rather than empathy, thus an empathetic doctor may not be the best fit. If male, or female, doctors begin trying to be empathetic while working, their forged emotion may confuse or bother the patient. I feel it’s best for doctor’s to remain as honest and genuine as possible so the patient can keep calm and feel comfortable, even if that means a physician is not empathetic.

  3. MikeJune 4, 2010

    As a young man, I would feel more comfortable visiting a male doctor. However, if I were to ever seek a mental health specialist I would prefer a female.

  4. JennyJune 25, 2010

    I do not necessarily agree with this article. In my opinion, male physicians can be just as empathetic as female ones. It is not always a question of gender, but of personality, and just because women are historically depicted as caregivers does not mean men lack the same capacity for compassion.

  5. JennyJune 25, 2010

    I do not necessarily agree with this article. I believe that both male and female physicians have the ability to make their patients feel comfortable and at ease. It is not always a question of gender, but of personality, and just because women are historically depicted as caregivers does not mean that men lack the same capacity for compassion.

  6. Ahsan SayedJuly 14, 2010


    I agree that men are just as well at being compassionate as women are. But this article is simply stating the facts revealed through Dr. Chen’s research.

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