September 26, 2013 — Summary of "Education in Women's Health and Sex and Gender Medicine," Templeton, Journal of Women's Health, 8/5.
Although "[s]ignificant strides have been made in research regarding women's health and sex and gender medicine," the "information is not always consistently translated into clinical practice," according to an editorial by Kim Templeton of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Templeton argues that this disconnection in part "reflects continued deficits of inclusion of women's health topics in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs." She cites an article by Hsieh et al., appearing in the same edition of Journal of Women's Health, that assessed internal medicine residents' "comfort level and adequacy of training and exposure to a variety of women's health issues."
In that study, the internal medicine residents completed a questionnaire on women's health topics that the American Board of Internal Medicine has identified as core competencies, as well as other topics included in internal medicine training programs. The researchers "found a linear correlation between comfort level and degree of training experience for several of these conditions," but "a low comfort level was noted for 7 of the 13 topics, with the residents noting perceived limited training opportunities in 11 of these 13 areas." The residents were most competent addressing cardiovascular risk factors and prevention, Templeton adds.
While the conditions included "under the rubric of 'women's health' continue to expand," she notes that Hsieh and colleagues focused on "topics more traditionally thought of as constituting women's health," such as pregnancy and menopausal symptoms. "It is of concern that if residents currently in training are not comfortable with managing or have not had exposure to these core topics in women's health, what will be their level of comfort in dealing with a continually expanding scope of conditions?" Templeton asks.
Hsieh and colleagues also noted that the survey found no differences between residents starting their training and those at the end of their training for 12 of the 13 topics.
Templeton writes that the researchers make several suggestions, such as incorporating faculty members from other disciplines into training programs, developing clinical electives and launching a journal club. She also endorses expanded online educational programs, which would be especially beneficial at institutions with little faculty expertise in women's health.
"Working across institutions and disciplines, we can continue to refine what is meant by 'women's health' and develop curricula and faculty development opportunities to improve the translation of current research into clinical practice for all health care professionals," Templeton concludes.