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Opinion Female medical school students are still facing harassment


I was appalled by the Oct. 8 Health & Science article “ I get harassed in hospitals. Other women do, too. ,” about sexual harassment of female medical students. 

Forty years ago, one of the reasons I went into public health was the publication of a book called “Why Would a Girl Go Into Medicine?” by Mary Howell, the first female associate dean at Harvard Medical School. Although she had impressive credentials (PhD in psychology, medical and law degrees), she was expected to show up at public events but otherwise was given nothing to do. She decided to use the prestige and resources of the medical school to conduct a national survey of female medical students and how they interacted with faculty, other students and patients. The resulting book was a chronicle of harassment: female students subjected to pranks in the dissection lab, nude slides slipped into scientific presentations, patients who refused to be examined by a “girl.” My favorite was the lecturer who told his class that the only difference between a cow and a woman was the number of teats.

It seems nothing has changed in 40 years except now there are more female medical students to harass. The article ended on a note of despair, but there are resources, such as the National Women’s Health Network and the Women’s Caucus of the American Public Health Association (I am a member of both), where women can meet like-minded people who stand solidly behind each other.

Clare Feinson, Washington

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