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CanMEDS and Gender

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

The CanMEDS 2005 roles can all be understood from a gender perspective.[1]


Communicator -

Our own assumptions and biases shape the way we approach patients, a gender perspective of clinical practice acknowledges the way in which the sex and gender of the patient impacts on clinical testing, diagnostics, treatment and outcomes.

Why are physicians are more likely to initiate discussion about smoking cessation with male rather than female smokers?[2]


Scholar -

A gender perspective of research acknowledges the clinical consequences of gender blind medical research and the resulting medical evidence.

Why do only 2 of 11 lung cancer screening trials done before 1997 include women ?[3]

Why do only 33% of the trials included in the 30 reviews pertaining to treatment of cardiovascular disease that make up the Cochrane Library examine outcomes by sex?[4]


Professional -

Gender plays a role in our professional relationships, a gender perspective of medical practice acknowledges the ways in which the sex or gender of the provider impacts on the health care encounter.

Why are nurses are more willing to serve and defer to male physicians, even when the medical decisions those physicians make seem erroneous?[5]


Collaborator -

If we, as physicians, are expected to work and learn with all members of the health care team, including patients and families, then we need to understand how we learn and work with others. 

Why don’t we do more with the evidence that male and female students have different approaches to learning.[6]


Manager -

In medicine, like other areas of academia, the number of women who are full professors or department chairs remains small despite increasing numbers of women entering academic life and working in sessional or junior positions. In fact, the percentage of faculty who were women in 1921 was 15,  it is now 18% - increasing enrolment has not resulted in increasing advancement.[7]

Why are there there not equal numbers of men and women in academic leadership and health care management  positions?


Health Advocate -

Men’s and women’s different social roles affect their health differently and health advocacy demands an understanding of the social, economic and gender influences on a person’s health.

Why do 94% of workplace fatalities occur in men?[8]


Medical Expert -

Gender is a determinant of health, and to provide expert, evidence-based care that is truly patient-centred we need to act on this:

  • understand the biological and technical aspects of medical care

  • understand the interaction between person and social context

  • demonstrate professional behaviours that are rooted in a deep understanding, and respect for, difference and diversity

How to do this?

  • work through modules to develop an understanding of gender that can be transferred and applied elsewhere

  • learn how to use the gender lens to look at medical problems (jump to the gender lens module)

  • don’t accept things as they are, ask "why?"




1. accessed November 3, 2005

2. Young JM, Ward JE.. Influence of physician and patient gender on provision of smoking cessation advice in general practice. Tob Control. 1998;7:360-3 accessed March 19, 2006

3. Baldini EH and Strauss GM. Women and lung cancer: waiting to exhale Chest 1997; 112(4 Suppl): 229S-234S accessed March 19, 2006

4. Johnson SM, Karvonen CA, Phelps CL, Nader S, Sanborn BM. Assessment of analysis by gender in the Cochrane reviews as related to treatment of cardiovascular disease.Journal of Women's Health 2003;12(5):449-57.

5. Zelek B and SP Phillips. Gender and power: Nurses and doctors in Canada. International Journal for Equity in Health 2003; 2:1 accessed March 19, 2006

6. Mattick K, Dennis I, and J Bligh. Approaches to learning and studying in medical students: validation of a revised inventory and its relation to student characteristics and performance. Medical Education 2004, 38: 535-543. and]

7. Yedidia MJ, Bickel J. Why aren’t there more women leaders in academic medicine? The views of clinical department chairs. Academic Medicine 2001; 76:453-465 as cited in: Stalker J and Prentice S. Eds. The illusion of inclusion - women in post-secondary education Halifax:Fernwood Publishing, 1998.p 15-16.

8. Canadian Men’s Health network

All references for this section