This past week I saw a GI doctor. I was hesitant to even go in because my symptoms don’t feel worth addressing. The last time I went to GI they simply said the issues I had would always be there. My nervous system problems would propel the issues forward and create a cycle. They gave me no treatment or guidance for symptom management. When I spoke with my allergist about the stomach issues I was having, he urged me to go in. Reluctantly, I agreed. My appointment got scheduled and I braced myself for the myriad of dismissals I was ready to receive. While I was waiting, I checked to see what the doctor’s name was. To my shock, it was a woman. I felt an immediate wave of relief.
Out of all the doctor’s I’ve seen, very few have been women. Yet, in my experience, I’ve only been dismissed or felt invalidated by two out of at least fifteen. Male doctor’s on the other hand are much more prone to giving a treatment plan that equates to just sucking it up. That’s not to say that there aren’t great male doctor’s out there. Statistical analysis proves female doctors are more likely to empathize and believe women. It’s horrifying that anyone could go to their doctor and be told it’s all in their head. Unfortunately it happens daily.
This consultation with GI was the exact opposite of what I expected. Not only was she kind and respectful but she sought out more testing. She was shocked that the last doctor didn’t follow my case more closely. My symptoms and medical history all have a form of treatment. At the very least she offered me symptom management even if there was no clear cause of my symptoms. I left feeling validated and comforted by the fact that I was going to get a solution no matter what. Then I started thinking. Out of all the doctors I’ve seen my best experiences have always been with female physicians. My primary care doctor I have now, is the first one I’ve stuck with. She’s been there for me since the start and is always ready to help. She cares about my lifestyle, my ability to run, and validates that I’m going above and beyond.
The autonomic neurologist I saw a couple weeks ago was also caring. She took the time to appreciate what I was experiencing. She acknowledged the variation in my heart and how exhausting that is. She took the time to explain that my body is trying to pass out and my heart won’t let it. That causes a lot of heart rate jumps that cause my sometimes debilitating symptoms. I learned more from her in one visit than three with my other autonomic neurologist combined.
What I’ve learned is that all physicians are people. There are good days and bad days. Some are kind and compassionate and others aren’t. That being said, in my experience the female physicians trend more towards compassionate. Despite the same diagnosis, acknowledgement of symptoms, and validity of the visit, I leave my appointments with female physicians feeling heard. As someone who goes to the doctor five to ten times a month that’s huge. I think we need to start acknowledging this disparity in treatment because it’s very real. It leads to a lot of medical gaslighting and medical trauma. It causes white coat syndrome and avoidance of needed treatment. Nobody should leave the doctor feeling like their disease/syndrome/disorder/symptoms are their fault.