Organizers of the three-day virtual event hope it paves the way for curriculum to be taught in every health-sciences school.
This month, the University will host a Sex and Gender Health Education Summit to highlight innovative and sustainable curriculum methods, create a network to support and progress the integration of pertinent topics into health professionals’ education, and expand multidisciplinary and interprofessional opportunities.
Organizers of the virtual event hope it ultimately provides “a road map for integrating sex- and gender-based medicine into medical and health professions education while providing an opportunity for attendees to interact with leaders across different healthcare professions.”
The three-day national collaboration—which starts on Friday, Sept. 11—is co-sponsored by the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health and the Mayo Clinic.
The upcoming event is geared toward “providing attendees with the knowledge and resources to navigate their organization and facilitate curricular change, create a step-wise plan for sex and gender integration, access ready-made sex and gender curricular materials and learning outcomes, enhance interprofessional education through a sex and gender approach, and engage with 300 health professionals faculty and stakeholders.”
The online nature of the event will offer speakers a chance to reach a wider audience, says Dr. Ana Maria Lopez, professor and vice chair of medical oncology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College and chief of cancer services for Jefferson Health New Jersey and the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.
“One of the positives of going online is that we can reach more people than we could otherwise,” Dr. Lopez says. “We’re hoping to reach as many learners as possible since they’re the future of taking this message forward. We’re engaging folks in learning communities to initiate engagement prior to the meeting and sustain our efforts afterward.”
The evolution of gender-specific medicine education traces back to 1993 when the AMWA brought together physician volunteers and staff to focus on its Reproductive Health Initiative (RHI), as the group recognized the lack of uniform reproductive health education in American medical schools.
Three years later, the RHI Model Curriculum was unveiled and made available to medical school to facilitate curricular change in reproductive health.
Dr. Lopez notes the 2001 Institute of Medicine report—titled “Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?”—was “revolutionary from the concept of women’s health.”
“Every cell has a sex and the influence of hormones in a person’s body and genetics impacts the body at a molecular level,” Dr. Lopez shares of those findings. “It showed that there are differences by sex, which is biology, and gender, which is the social expression of that biology.”
In 2015, the National Institutes of Health announced that grant applicants “needed to demonstrate that they were considering sex as a biological variable.” –Dr. Ana Maria Lopez
By 2004, the AMWA found the curriculum was being used in some capacity in roughly half of all U.S. medical schools and in 24 countries.
Coincidentally, that year the first edition of the Principles of Gender-Specific Medicine was published. It marked the first time that a textbook focused on gender-specific medicine and defined the focus for this field of medicine as “how biological sex and the sociocultural aspects of gender affect health and illness for women and men.”
In 2015, the National Institutes of Health announced that sex as a biological variable would be factored into research designs, analyses and reporting in vertebrate animal and human studies. That announcement said grant applicants “needed to demonstrate that they were considering sex as a biological variable,” Dr. Lopez notes.
The forums aim to further that progress, with medical professionals seeking to answer this question: “How can we bring what we know as sex as a biological variable as we take care of people?”
“We really want to have sex and gender medical curriculum taught in every medical school that educates health professionals,” she says of the ultimate goal.