Sexual Harassment of Female Med School Students Endangers All Women's Health

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Time’s Up has been taking down sexual predators in entertainment, tech, and advertising... and now, the nonprofit has its sights set on the health-care industry. According to a report in STAT News, Time’s Up Healthcare comes on the heels of a statement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledging decades of failure to recognize and address sexual harassment against women in science and medicine—and a commitment to making improvements.

A survey cited by the NIH report suggests nearly half of female students indicated they had been harassed by faculty or staff while in med school. According to Time’s Up, discrimination in health care affects patients in a few different ways:

  • First, it can prevent women from reaching their potential in the fields of science and medicine, which can also jeopardize patient safety, as the “best person” might not be on the job.
  • Next, gender bias and sexual harassment can have a detrimental effect on health-care workers — a field that’s already susceptible to higher-than-average stress levels.
  • Finally, it can prevent female patients from being truly heard by their health-care providers and allow them to be marginalized. One example of this is women with endometriosis — a condition that’s often painful, can have a negative impact on daily life, and takes an average of 9 years to diagnose.

Dr. Jane van Dis, a founding member of Time’s Up Healthcare, told STAT that women of color and patients with lower income are often the most vulnerable and the most affected by discriminatory practices in health care. In response to the NIH statement, a number of medical schools across the United States, as well as the Mayo Clinic, have committed to taking steps to address this widespread problem.