“It’s simple, it’s really simple as hell; be aware of the sex differences,” Anat Biegon, professor of neurology at the Renaissance School of Medicine, said.
Biegon was the keynote speaker at the 13th Annual Women in Medicine Research Day at the Renaissance School of Medicine, an event celebrating women in the medical field in the Health Sciences Tower on Wednesday, March 6.
The day kicked off with a keynote speech given by Anat Biegon, PhD., on gender-based medicine.
Gender based medicine is the study on how biological sex affects disease prevalence, disease prevention, medical devices and medical procedures. Biegon pointed out that approximately 66 percent of doctor visits are made by women. The problem is, the cause is still unknown.
Despite this, Biegon explained that over the course of their lifetimes, women are more likely to be affected by certain diseases than men are. Heart disease is one of the main gender-based medical risks, as it affects more women than men according to the Texas Heart Institute.
Pregnancy can also expose women to a greater risk of depression and mood disorders.
“During the reproductive years women are two to three times more likely to have depression [than men],” Biegon said. “After 60, the lines begin to even out again.”
Biegon went on to say that although men also lose hormones over time, it is at a much slower rate than women.
Biegon highlighted the fact that women are more susceptible to certain health problems no matter where they live.
“It’s not a culture thing, it’s not a developed world thing, it’s everywhere,” she said.
Many of the people attending the event were women, although several men were scattered throughout the room as well. One of them was Stony Brook medical student David Nichols.
“I’m interested in family medicine,” Nichols said. “These types of events teach us what is current in medicine, even if I am not fully engaged with it yet in my career.”
When asked why it is important to attend events like this, Julie Cherian, pediatric rheumatologist and chief of the division of pediatric rheumatology at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital said, “Gender bias is huge in medicine, as it is in multiple fields, and I think that learning about it and discussing this is an important conversation so that we can make change.”
Aside from the keynote speech, the day was filled with various networking opportunities and a panel discussion on balancing a career in medicine with having a personal life.
Some of the panelists said having a support system was a great help, especially for those with children who need to be cared for. Biegon mentioned that her mother was a feminist, which helped encourage her to pursue a career. Latha Chandran, vice dean of academic and faculty affairs for the Renaissance School of Medicine, said that having a supportive spouse who was not a doctor helped contribute to her successful career since her husband worked more regular hours.
“I said to my husband, ‘I carried her [Biegon’s child] for the first nine months, you carry her the rest of the way,’” Biegon said.
Cindy Poerio, a clinical lab technician at Stony Brook University Hospital, attended the panel and said it was helpful to hear the advice of other women in the medical field. “It addresses the balance of family and work,” she said. “[And] how other people have navigated that.”