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also relevant for Health Sciences, Nursing, new degrees in health professions (Physiotherapy)

Course: Health professions , Health Sciences , Medicine
Group of courses: Medicine and Health


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Course objectives:

The category of gender plays a central role in the medical profession. Alongside biological differences, social differences also affect the development of medical disorders and are important for diagnosis and medical treatment. Moreover, the interaction between doctor and patient cannot be regarded in isolation from their gender and the associated roles.

The teaching of medicine thus has a key role in enabling students to recognise gender-specific differences and to use these insights in their own medical practice. As well as teaching cognitive knowledge, medical degrees should sensitise students to their own gender roles and existing gender stereotypes, alongside their significance for their activities as doctors. At the end of their degrees, students should be capable of using the gender perspective as an important assessment and behavioural dimension in their practice as doctors.

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Teaching content/subject-specific gender studies content:

By the end of their degrees, students should have gained skills and knowledge in the following areas, which should be specified for the individual subjects in question:

  • Knowledge of sex differences in basic medicine (including anatomy, physiology) and in the development and prevalence of medical disorders, and their significance for prevention and medical care
  • Knowledge and skills regarding appropriate examination methods for men and women
  • Taking the gender perspective into account in all necessary medical decisions
  • Awareness of gender-specific differences in social roles and living conditions, and their influence on pathogenesis, diagnosis, prevention and medical treatment
  • Reflection on their own gendered personalities and their significance for their activity as doctors
  • Knowledge and awareness of the influence of gender on communication and interaction with patients and development of gender-appropriate communication and interaction
  • Ability to assess teaching/learning materials and academic publications, critically regarding appropriateness from a gender perspective, i.e. looking at whether both sides of gender-specific aspects taken into adequate account to assess the possibilities and limitations of application
  • Ability to assess the extent to which medical practice and healthcare structures are gender-inclusive and which changes might be necessary.

Medicine is still a long way from systematically establishing women's and gender studies and integrating gender-specific content into teaching. However, there have been several initiatives to implement gender-specific content in medicine degrees at several different universities in the past few years.

The above catalogue of skills and knowledge indicates the extent to which gender-specific content should be integrated into medicine degrees. A combination of top-down and bottom-up processes is ideal for specifying the individual skills and knowledge for the respective subject areas. During these processes, specific targets can be developed, ultimately leading to a gender-sensitive curriculum. This would ensure that gender-specific content is systematically integrated into medicine degrees, and also relevant in examinations.

In addition, further long-term steps are essential to integrate women's and gender studies into medical teaching and develop learning targets and examination criteria:

  1. Processing the existing sex/gender-specific knowledge in medicine and its significance for anamnesis, diagnosis, prevention and therapy
  2. Generation of gender-specific knowledge, to be integrated into teaching through targeted research (e.g. gender-specific teaching/learning material)
  3. Adaptation of the very detailed international gender-related learning targets catalogues (e.g. APGO - Women's Health Care Competencies for Medical Students 2005) to the specific training situation at German medical faculties
  4. Close cooperation and establishment of a dialogue with all areas of medicine on the various sex/gender-related differences in the development of medical disorders and their treatment/prevention
  5. Initiation of discussion processes at university level, leading to a re-evaluation of women's and gender studies as an innovative area and an important quality indicator for medical training and care (e.g. through the establishment of professorships for women's and gender studies in medicine).

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Integration of gender studies content into the curriculum:

The integration of gender-specific content should take place in two ways:

  1. Across the curriculum by addressing gender-specific content in all standard seminars, lectures, etc.

    • women's and gender studies content is significant for most pre-clinical subject areas (first section of degree courses) and in all clinical areas (second degree section), and should be appropriately presented and taught.

  2. Specifically by offering seminars and lectures explicitly related to gender.

    • offering seminars and lectures explicitly related to gender can ensure that the influence of sex and gender on medical disorders and care (including prevention) is presented in the overall context in general teaching sessions, and that specific subjects such as the gender-specific consequences of violence on health can be dealt with in greater detail.

To ensure sustainable integration, appropriate learning targets should be formulated for all subjects (see point 2 above), forming the basis of a gender-sensitive curriculum.

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Degree Stage:

Gender-related content should be continuously integrated into medicine degrees, i.e. from the first to the last semester, varying according to subject and level. For instance, it has proved practical to offer an introductory seminar on "Gender in Medicine" at the beginning of the degree (e.g. at the Medical University of Vienna) to teach cognitive knowledge and sensitise students to gender-related issues and their own gender roles.