Dr. Reshma Jagsi, who studies gender issues in medicine at the University of Michigan, said a group of people with varied perspectives can better solve complex questions and make advances in a field. Men and women can offer important contributions to OB-GYN, she said.
"I really do believe that diversity improves the quality of care," said Jagsi.
Dr. Saketh Guntupalli, a gynecological oncologist at the University of Colorado, raised the stakes. "If you exclude 50 percent of people from anything, think about how much you've lost," he said. "You might lose the next person who's going to find a cure for cancer."
These concerns appear to have given men pursuing OB-GYN an advantage. Medical school advisors told some that they wouldn't need to apply to as many residency programs as women with equivalent test scores, male students said.
If deciding between an equally qualified male and female candidate for a residency class that otherwise would have only women, program directors may favor the man, said Dr. Todd Jenkins, an OB-GYN at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
"We find our faculty, our residents work better when we have a little mix," he said.
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Many women -- patients and doctors alike -- bristled at the idea that the field needs men.
In the 1970s, women struggled to get into medical school and to find doctors who wouldn't judge their sex lives, said Wendy Kline, a history of medicine professor at Purdue University. Activists viewed the male-run healthcare system as a gear of the patriarchy, she said.
Now 82 percent of residents training to be OB-GYNs are women. The proportion of female gynecologists in practice is expected to hit two-thirds by 2025.
Carol Weisman, a Penn State public health and OB-GYN professor, lauded women's success in the field and balked at efforts to recruit men. She pointed out that OB-GYN remains one of the hardest specialties to break into each year.