Why We Need More Female Physicians

No Ma’am, this is not fake news.

If you work in a healthcare setting please keep reading because I’m not making this stuff up. Recently, I came across this striking headline in mainstream media:

Female Physicians Save More Lives

That’s right!

Researchers at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health recently compared hospital mortality and readmission rates for Medicare patients treated by male versus female physicians. Their results were small but statistically significant (i.e. clinically meaningful). They found better patient outcomes among those who were treated by female physicians in each area – fewer deaths after hospitalization within 30 days of the admission date, and lower hospital readmission rates, within 30 days of the discharge date, at the same hospital over a period of three years.

Specifically, patients treated by women had a four percent lower risk of dying prematurely and a five percent lower risk of being readmitted to a hospital.

“If male physicians achieved the same outcomes as female physicians do, we would save about 32,000 lives per year,” one of the researchers explained in media coverage.

Now I urge you to read the fine print here in JAMA Internal Medicine if you can power through a complex medical study. I persevered through the key points and discussion sections, relying on sturdy reporting by Vox (where I originally saw this gem), The LA Times and Fox News to help me make sense of the study’s results. Not surprisingly, Fox News appeared the most skeptical among mainstream media – medical girl power, what? 

Female Physicians Build Stronger Relationships With Their Patients

While the Harvard researchers discovered better patient outcomes when treated by female physicians, they did not explain why, drawing instead on previous studies that show the gender of the physician can influence the quality of care patients receive in hospitals.

Women have shown to practise differently than men: they employ evidence-based research and techniques more often; women adhere more closely to clinical guidelines; and they communicate more effectively with patients, offering psychosocial counselling alongside physical treatment. In so doing, women build stronger relationships with their patients.

It likely means female physicians have more satisfied and hence grateful patients.

Too long of a leap in logic? I think otherwise.


Let’s develop prospect development and fundraising strategies that include – heck, are driven by! – female physicians, as partners in healthcare philanthropy.

Because better patient outcomes are what we ultimately strive for in healthcare (and the philanthropy which supports it), some suggestions to get started:

  • Identify veteran as well as up-and-comer female physicians at healthcare institutions

Do you know who they are, where you are? Where I am, major gift officers tend to focus their outreach efforts on hospital department heads and rock star researchers (rightly so), but I think we could extend our reach beyond this small elite group to help us identify grateful patients.

I’m not referring to those female physicians who are focused solely on women’s health either, but across all medical areas like cardiology, gastroenterology, renal and respiratory. Harvard’s results held up across a wide range of medical conditions.

One special source where you may locate your female physicians is through one of the local branches or national chapters of The Medical Women’s International Association. Members advocate for themselves and the advancement of other women in their profession, so solicit them for advice.

  • Help fundraisers build productive, trusting relationships with female physicians who are comfortable introducing their grateful patients.

Where I am, our go-to crew for grateful patient referrals are currently middle-aged male cardiologists who have been with our institution for some time. What keeps me fulfilled is actually the reactive research I conduct on their donor leads. It’s my intelligence that helps inform fundraisers in dealing with our medical partners. They can quickly put research into meaningful action in these grateful patient cases, so these leads take high priority in my work.

Perhaps our male cardiologists could also introduce us to their female colleagues in addition to grateful patients?

  • Good data practices please

Don’t you just hate it when a prominent physician (i.e. a potential ally) has no record in the database? Or when a new prospect is not naturally partnered to her physician’s record in the database? Me too! That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time physically connecting constituent records to one another. Those data connections will be powerful someday.

  • Start now since the number of female physicians is about to increase

Inevitably, women will become a stronger force in medicine given their fierce enrolment and completion rates in both Canadian and American medical schools.

In a Huffington Post article entitled “Canadian Women are Storming the Ivory Towers,” Bob Ramsay notes three out of five medical student graduates are women. In the USA, 46 percent of all physicians in training and almost half of all medical students are women, according to an Association of American Medical Colleges analysis quoted in The Wall Street Journal more than a year ago.

Intentionally identifying and reaching out to emerging female physicians – tomorrow’s medical leaders – makes good sense now. The future of advancing healthcare philanthropy is held in their capable hands. Now, if only female physicians were paid at par with or better than their male counterparts?

Visuals: A nursing school graduate from St. Paul’s Hospital, circa 1919.

The painting is by “D. Booth ’14.”



3 thoughts on “Why We Need More Female Physicians

  1. Sarah Bernstein January 17, 2017 at 9:46 am Reply

    Great post Preeti! I’ve had a lot of interaction with healthcare in recent years. Both my primary care doc and the specialist I see most are women, and they share the traits you describe. I feel very well taken care of. Unfortunately for my medical system, I am not a HNWI 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • | Preeti | January 17, 2017 at 10:21 am Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Sarah! Don’t fret as you are highly valuable to the prospect development community! And don’t forget that women are great candidates for legacy giving. PG


  2. […] Why We Need More Female Physicians | Preeti Gill via A Few Great Women blog | @SoleSearcherPR […]


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