Health & Spirit

Male OB-GYNs are in decline, stirring debate

Soumya Karlamangla, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

Some patients wait until Dr. Jerome Chelliah snaps on his gloves to make the request. Others blurt it out as soon as he walks in the exam room.

"I'd rather see a female doctor," they say.

Chelliah thinks he can be a sensitive obstetrician-gynecologist even though he's a man. But he has no choice but to comply.

"I've been rejected many times over," he said. "As a person of color, I face discrimination in other ways, but it's not so blatant.... People have no problem saying they don't want you."

Chelliah is in a field of medicine where all the patients are female, and it's more possible than ever for them to demand female doctors.

In 1970, 7 percent of gynecologists were women. Now 59 percent are.

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Some men fear the falling number of male OB-GYNs could eventually lead to them being excluded from the specialty. They believe this is not only unfair, but also has subtle ramifications that go beyond patients' comfort on the examination table.

It's a perspective that garners little sympathy among women who had to fight for entrance into the male-dominated world of medicine.

"Nobody was worried at all that there weren't enough women in OB" in the 1970s, said Dr. Barbara Levy, an OB-GYN who trained then. "Nobody paid any attention to us."

The debate about male OB-GYNs taking place in universities and doctors' offices across the country has stoked concern and resentment among men and women, creating the ultimate collision of medicine and gender politics.


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