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Gender medicine: its historical roots
  1. Donatella Lippi1,
  2. Raffaella Bianucci2,3,4,
  3. Simon Donell5
  1. 1 Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
  2. 2 Legal Medicine Section, Department of Public Health and Paediatric Sciences, University of Turin, Turin, Italy
  3. 3 Warwick Medical School, Biomedical Science, The University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
  4. 4 UMR 7268, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie bio-culturelle, Droit, Etique & Santé (Adés), Faculté de Médecine de Marseille, Marseille, France
  5. 5 Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Raffaella Bianucci, University of Turin, Torino 10126, Italy; raffaella.bianucci{at}


Gender medicine as a subject began with Bernadine Healy’s 1991 article ‘The Yentl Syndrome’ which showed that women had worse outcomes following heart attacks since their symptoms are different from men. Since then gender-specific clinical research protocols have been progressively included so that evidence for guidelines can be better informed such that women are then less disadvantaged and care become more personalised. This paper traces back the historical roots of gender bias in medicine in Western culture, which is reflected in the pictorial arts and writings of each historical period, beginning with Hippocrates. It describes the changes that have led to attempts at improving the place of women, and the treatments of disease, on an equal footing with men, precipitated by Healy’s paper.

  • sexual medicine
  • social medicine

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  • Contributors DL planned the study; DL, RB, SD conducted the survey; SD polished the manuscript; RB submitted the manuscript and is responsible for the overall content as guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.