It's important to have men in the field, she says, if only to continue to give patients options in their choice of providers. But most of her friends and other women she talks to, she says, want female doctors.
Blake Butterworth, a fourth-year obstetrics and gynecology resident at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, says he doesn't take it personally when he hears that sort of thing from a patient.
"I don't get discouraged; I don't get offended," Butterworth says. "I gladly hand that patient off."
He's one of only two male residents in the program of 24 at MUSC and says he finds it rewarding when he can win a new patient's confidence.
"I have patients that clearly express disdain to have to see a guy," he says. "Then I develop rapport with her. And she says, 'I expected you to be x-y-z, and you were better than that.' "
Butterworth says he chose obstetrics and gynecology because it lets him develop long-term relationships with patients — providing routine OB-GYN care and more complicated surgeries if need be.
"Once you really get into it, and get involved in it, I don't think that bias [that the field is best left to women] holds true," he says.
Butterworth believes it is incumbent on male OB-GYNs to talk to male medical students about the benefits of having men in the field. Students need to know it's OK to have an interest in the field, he says, and that they will find work.
In fact, says Dr. Ashlyn Savage , an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at MUSC, it may be the opposite.
"In an effort to really diversify the applicant pool, we will apply in some cases different screening standards to decide who we are going to interview," Savage says. "For example, we might consider an applicant with a slightly lower board score — just to enhance how many men we are interviewing and considering."
It has been a challenge to find male OB-GYNs for the program, she says. The gender that at one time dominated the field is now at some schools considered a diversity hire. But Savage questions whether balancing the number of men and women in the specialty is as important as racial or ethnic diversity.
"The interesting thing to me is the primary motivation to [seek a diverse candidate pool] is so that patients have the opportunity to seek out physicians who might ... feel like themselves," she says. "In this particular case ... all of the patients for OB-GYNs are women."
Among practicing OB-GYNs in the U.S., a little less than half are men, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But ACOG predicts that 10 years from now, two-thirds of the doctors in that specialty will be female.
Still, male doctors hold a lot of the key positions in OB-GYN professional organizations.
"Leadership tends to be held by people who are older," Savage says. "And we are still in a scenario where [more of] our older faculty tend to be men."
A study published last fall found the women are underrepresented in leadership roles in medical school departments of obstetrics and gynecology all around the country. That ratio was most lopsided in men's favor in the South.
It's perhaps only a matter of time before that, too, changes. Savage says she just learned that her program's incoming class of OB-GYN residents next year will be all female.
This story is part of NPR's reporting partnership with WFAE and Kaiser Health News.
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