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February 2, 2000

The Feminization of Medicine

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JAMA. 2000;283(5):666. doi:10.1001/jama.283.5.666-JMS0202-2-1

A generation ago a woman's role in medicine was that of a patient, and the thought of devoting an entire issue to the subject of gender was unheard of. But much has changed since 1970, when only 8% of practicing physicians and 13% of medical students were women.1 In the past 30 years, the white coat has opened to increasing numbers of women interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

By the year 2010, nearly one third of practicing physicians will be women.1 What does that mean for health care? Will the "feminization" of medicine change its practice in the next century? To begin to answer that question, Assistant Surgeon General Susan J. Blumenthal, MD, MPA, delineates the issues and challenges that will confront health care in general, and women's health in specific, in the new millennium. To understand the historical role of women in medicine, Rhoda Wynn traces their therapeutic image and lineage from ancient times to the present.