When I was a student, 90% of my colleagues were male and most patients thought of ‘women doctors’ as oxymorons. I still cringe when I remember some of my experiences.
The eager medical student
As a student locum I looked after a man with pelvic vein thromboses, grossly enlarged blue legs and a bizarre rash on the lower half of his body. His consultant was the surgeon who later conducted our final revision course. On the first day of the course the consultant put up a slide and asked me to make a diagnosis. I looked at the man’s legs and said, ‘I recognise this patient’.
As hilarity broke out I realised that the man was completely naked. For the next two months it became a running joke. Every topic or question remotely connected to male urogenital function was addressed to me with the comment, ‘You’ll know this since you’re our expert in these areas’. After my initial embarrassment I found that it was easier to go with the flow and join in the general amusement. It even earned me a few beers.
Today I would probably be able to claim immense damages for sexual harassment. However, this was a very mild experience compared, for example, with the behaviour of some surgeons in operating theatres. Unfortunately, it did not prepare me for the next patient.