Accounting for physicians’ gender expectations improves men’s health medicine

Wentzell et al.

The field of men’s health seeks to improve men’s health outcomes by accounting for the specific ways that gender influences male health behaviors. To meet this goal, physicians must also account for the ways that their own cultural assumptions about masculinity influence their clinical practice. Gender is not solely biological. It is a way of acting out masculinity or femininity that varies across individual and cultural contexts. Thus, doctors and patients might have different ideas about how a man should feel and act. These attitudes can influence whether men’s bodily changes are viewed as pathological versus normal. Two simple interventions are proposed to enable physicians to identify their own assumptions about masculinity and differentiate these from their patients’ in order to make more appropriate treatment decisions. The first is advocating for medical guidelines for their specialty that account for gender as context-specific rather than universal. The second is incorporating attention to gender into their daily clinical practice by asking rather than assuming what patients want in order to base treatment decisions on patients’ rather than physicians’ ideas of how men should feel and behave.

Opinion and analysis