Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Women Physicians as a Catalyst for Change

“The biggest mistake I have committed is not asking him to leave the room.”

You are a first year resident doctor. A pregnant patient comes in with her husband. She presents with symptoms of an upset stomach and headache. You look at her abdomen and notice bruises all over. You turn to the patient and ask what happened. Before the patient can open her mouth, her husband says she bumped into a table a couple days ago.
What do you do? Do you take his words as the truth or question further? Should you ask the husband to leave the room?

These questions were presented at the session “Roles of Women Physicians in Sustainable Development by Addressing VAW”. Violence against women (VAW) happens all over the world, not specific to any culture, nationality, religion, etc. In many cases of VAW, it is often a physician who has close third-party contact with the victim. Training medical students and physicians to look for signs of abuse and violence is a step towards getting the victim the necessary support she needs.

This panel, sponsored by the Medical Women's International Association and the American Medical Women’s Association African Views, consisted of a panel of 13 women physicians from all over the world. Each spoke on different programs to educate medical students on how to recognize victims of abuse and violence as well as how to handle the situation properly.

In Australia, when a physician identifies a patient as a victim of VAW, a hotline can be used to dispatch security personnel to escort the woman to a safe space as her case is being handled by police. In the United States, efforts are being made to allow physicians to be with the patient, one-on-one, as long as the patient is above 12 years of age.

It is estimated that 1 of 3 women are victims of VAW. Yet, so little is currently done on a national level to address VAW. VAW is as much of a public health issue as H1N1, Ebola, and most recently, the Zika virus. The difference in approach, from allocation of extra funds to mobilization of health professionals, shines a light on how neglectant the government is on women. If similar action plans for the Ebola breakout was enforced for VAW, would there be less women suffering around the world?
With Dr. Teresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, president of AMWA 2015-2016.

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