Women and men get sick in different ways, and also drugs affect them differently. Gender medicine works with precision medicine to better explore these differences and incorporate the results into patient care and medical training.
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dying from a heart attack is significantly higher for women than for men. In addition, women suffer more often from thyroid diseases, rheumatism and disorders of the immune system. Men, on the other hand, are more often affected by Parkinson’s disease and are more likely to die from Covid-19. Taking into account sex differences benefits both women and men and should therefore be advanced in medical research.
Studies on disease development and treatment largely ignore female cells. Clinical trials are also conducted predominantly on men and do not list separate results for women and men. In addition, sociocultural factors such as stress, environment and lifestyle, which differ between women and men, are neglected.
The sex and gender factor is also barely discussed in medical training. Medical students do not learn what makes men and women different, what they need to know during examinations and when prescribing drugs for women as opposed to men, or how to communicate with patients in a way that is sensitive to gender differences. At the University of Zurich, this is set to change with the new endowed professorship for gender medicine.
“Let’s help gender medicine make a breakthrough to offer people more targeted and efficient treatment!”
Prof. Dr. Beatrice Beck Schimmer, Vice President Medicine
One of the main tasks of the endowed professorship will be to advance research in the field of gender medicine. It will establish projects in all areas of research, form consortia and raise external funding. Furthermore, gender medicine should be integrated into university teaching so that students receive basic information on the significance of biological sex and sociocultural gender in as many subjects as possible. Finally, the professorship should help raise awareness of the topic of gender medicine in Switzerland and enable UZH to take a leading role in the field internationally. The endowed professorship in gender medicine will ensure that the subject is firmly anchored in research and teaching, that a national and international network is cultivated, and that relevant findings are translated into practice. Gender medicine, together with precision medicine, will make an important contribution to positioning Zurich as a modern center for innovative approaches in medical research and healthcare.
The longer-term vision is to establish a Department of Gender Medicine at the University of Zurich. In addition, a clinical center for gender medicine is to be established in the future, where treatments will be tailored according to the patient’s sex using the principles of precision medicine.