Thursday, September 1, 2016

Where My Ladies At? Women in Urology

A photo of a doctor holding a sign that reads, "urology."
Image: Shutterstock
If you’re in the market for a urologist, chances are you’ll be seeing a male doctor. According to a poll from WebMD, only about 8% of urologists are female.

It’s not so surprising, right? If a gent is seeking professional help on a problem with his downstairs plumbing, he’s likely to prefer seeing a man over a woman, isn’t he?

Urology is more than doting on the dingus, though.

“It’s not all male genitalia!” says Dr. Leslie Rickey, urologist and associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine. “It’s the kidneys and the urinary tract. And as you may or may not be aware, there are a lot of women leaking urine out there.”

Rickey is also the president of the Society for Women in Urology (SWIU). Started in 1980 in San Francisco, the SWIU now has more than 650 members, 250 of which are board-certified urologists. Its mission, according to its website, is to “support the professional development and career advancement of women urologists and urologic researchers through education, advocacy, and mentorship.”

It’s that mentorship that many female urologists have said tops the list when it comes to their education and decision to focus on urology. Increasing numbers of women both in the field and running the classroom have encouraged more women to go into urology—though not always without resistance. A New York Times article from 2008 reported that female urologists are often mistaken for nurses or called unprofessional names like “babe,” “sweetheart,” and “honey,” particularly during training.

Still, there’s definitely a place for women in urology. If male patients might prefer a male doctor, the same can be said of female patients and female doctors. Incontinence or other urinary tract issues are sometimes easier to discuss with someone of your own gender.

Dr. Christina Pramudii, a urologist in Houston, says of her former workplace, “As soon as the women learned that there was a female urologist, they just flocked.” This is probably what led Pramudii to start a women-only practice based on the need she saw in her previous position. “For women it’s just so nice to have a women-only place,” she says. “I could just see a need for that.”

In the end, the gender of your urologist isn’t what matters so much as their ability to make you comfortable sharing your problems and to provide the best care possible.

Do you find that you are more comfortable with a urologist of the same gender? I’d love to hear your thoughts.