A group of female doctors is debating the best way for all doctors to be specially trained in women's health issues. The most provocative suggestion won't even be on the agenda, however.
Dr. Karen Johnson, a California psychiatrist, has developed a proposed curriculum for a new physician's specialty in women's medicine, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Medical Women's Assoc. The program emphasizes core training in internal medicine with heavy doses of women's psychology and physiology. It stresses instruction about male-female differences in drug metabolism and nutritional needs.
Johnson's proposal got negative reactions from much of the medical community -- including leaders of the major associations for internists, family practitioners and ob-gyns. "The assumption is that American women are being cared for in a fragmented, unsatisfactory way, and I don't think that's so", says Dr. Chuck Duvall, president of the American Society of Internal Medicine.
"We're trying to put women's health on the front burner" says Dr. Lila Wallis, past president of the AMWA. Many doctors still don't take women's complains seriously, Wallis says. They often dismiss female patients with headaches, backaches and fatigue as neurotic.