Women are not ëƵsmall menëƵ

By Nick Jacobs 3 min read

As National Women’s Month drew to a close in March and faded into the other 11 months that are not dedicated exclusively to women, I received an email message regarding a new book written by Phyllis E. Greenberger, “Sex Cells.”

Greenbeger has a list of credentials regarding advocacy for women’s health that is as long as my forearm, and the fact that her latest book was published by Mayo Clinic Press was all I needed to read and comment on her work.

The core of her book is that, despite all the work that has been done during the past 30 years or so, women are often still treated medically like men. She maintains that “every woman can point to a time her pain wasn’t taken seriously or a medical professional didn’t seem knowledgeable about women’s health.” With her focus on biological sex differences, Greenberger “continues to be struck by the lack of understanding of the topic, even among medical professionals.”

Consequently, the book provides the readers access to “the wide world of sex-specific medical issues . . .how women pay the price, with a close look at the impact that it has on minority populations. Told with humor, ferocity, and passion, ‘Sex Cells’ appeals to anyone interested in health, women’s rights, and public health policy.”

Having been involved on the administrative side of health care for nearly four decades, with a focus on research directed primarily toward women, this topic captivated me. During my time at our research institute, the work was focused on breast, cervical, endometrial, and ovarian cancers, plus heart disease, diseases that Greenberger refers to as “bikini medicine,” because it was limited to breast and genital health. Interestingly, however, our research not only looked at the genomic differences, we also studied the impact of behavioral modification on these various maladies.

It was during this time that we began asking female patients suffering from these diseases to visit the researchers and explain what they were going through. This was intended to personalize their challenges and encourage the scientists to look at individual women instead of just numbered test tubes and aliquots. In other words, we attempted to personalize, humanize, and feminize their work.

We found genetic differences associated with race, ethnicity, and sex that would alter not only the severity of the disease, but also the detection and eventual prevention and cure of certain diseases that were very different from those formerly acknowledged in the field.

During this time, it was clear to us that generally research on an international level was challenging in its history due to its lack of inclusion of women and minorities in clinical trials. Greenberger also addresses how women can begin to advocate for themselves in the doctor’s office.

She elaborates on the disparities women face in medical treatment that continue to this day. These disparities are even more prevalent among minorities. Equal but not the same is the primary thesis of “Sex Cells.”

Greenberger has been at the forefront of advocacy for women’s health for decades, and this book is a strong example of her dedication to enlightening readers about the challenges women’s health faces.

As Louse Otto-Peters, a German suffragist and women’s rights activist said, “The history of all times, and today especially, teaches that . . . Women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves.”

This book “. . . is a comprehensive tale of scientific stonewalling, intrepid advocacy, and the still-pitched battle to get the scientific and medical world to recognize that women are not small men.”

Nick Jacobs is a Windber resident.


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