Male or Female Doctor? Is One Better than the Other?

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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The neurologist who treats my MS is a woman. So is my primary care physician. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and an article in The New York Times makes me feel my decision is the right one.

Patient studies tell the tale

The Times article points to a recent study of more than half a million patients admitted to emergency rooms for heart problems over a two-decade period in Florida. Whether the patient was a man or a woman, the survival rate was better if the patient was treated by a woman.

Another study, this one of 1.6 million hospitalized Medicare patients in Florida, found that patients were less likely to die or to be quickly readmitted to the hospital after being discharged if their doctor was a woman.

Let’s talk about it

Over the years, a number of studies have reported on the importance of doctor-patient communications. (I wrote a column about that last year.) Some have found that women doctors spend just a little more time with their patients than men doctors do. More time may also mean more listening.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist who wrote the book “Women Are Not Small Men,” put it this way in the Times story: “Patients not only want you to take care of them in terms of making the right diagnosis, they also want to feel heard, and a big part of health care is the communication piece.” That, says Dr. Goldberg, is why one of her patients sought out a woman doctor. The article says the patient felt a previous male doctor didn’t “take the time to explain things to her and answer her questions.”

Don’t interrupt!

The Times also quotes Dr. Don Barr, a professor at Stanford Medical School. He says male doctors are notorious for interrupting patients. Dr. Barr wrote an article about one study in which female primary care physicians waited an average of three minutes before interrupting a patient. Male doctors waited an average of 47 seconds.

“The fact that the doctor is hearing what you are saying and cares about you and understands what you are going through makes coping with the illness and the implications of the illness that much easier,” Dr. Barr told the newspaper.

Woman or man?

That’s the way it’s been with my two women doctors. I never feel rushed. I always believe they listen to what I’m saying. That’s not to say there aren’t male physicians who are just as empathetic. In fact, my wife just made an appointment to see a new doctor and was told that the first appointment of the day is best because the doctor takes a lot of time with patients and is always running behind. And that doctor is a man. But think about it: When you’re in a conversation who listens to you more closely? I’m just wondering.

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marty burns avatar

marty burns

food for thought.all women in my family are strong



I,ve seen 7 neuros in 36yrs. One was female which I left after 6 mos. Most of the males were ok except for one. With me I look at the individual.

Jeff Witter avatar

Jeff Witter

I have all female doctors and dentist. Much better and more compassionate. My Neurologist is Indian. She is so smart and always listens. I wouldn’t have it any other way !

JR avatar


I'd prefer all my doctors to be female. Compassion and listening.
Unfortunately, some of my Docs are not female, but my MS Specialist is!

Sandy avatar


My last neuro was a man and he didn't listen well, interrupted me and he was the one who did all the talking. I hated that! I had always had questions left unanswered and I usually had to wait 3 months for my next appointment to get them answered, but by then I had a million more questions to ask, so those old questions would be at the top of the list! My new doctor is a woman and although she listens, she makes me feel rushed to ask her questions. It's really hard to find a good MS neuro, because there's just not enough of them, especially when you live in a small town. Then, you have to travel to a major city to see a neuro. If your fatigue is bad, then you have to make an afternoon appointment and by then, the doctor may be behind and feeling rushed to get to the next patient. It's just difficult to be a patient to begin with and getting a good doctor is too, but I feel like a female doctor does listen better and all around is the better choice, but finding one is the hard part....

Jennifer avatar


It really depends on the doctor. I’ve had both. I think age has something to do with the listening skills. The younger doctors seem to be better listeners. Also, the doctors that were in the military tend to listen better as well.

Gary Curran avatar

Gary Curran

Definatly Male Doctors come out more professional.

The Female has to keep looking up that journal on how to treat this and that... They do not inspire me at all. I run when I see one

My Girl friend refuses female Drs full stop. She is the same with Lawyers They make her nervous. She belives they will lie if they do not know the right treatment,or legal issue, thus causing more harm than good

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

That's interesting, Gary.

Both my primary care physician and my neurologist are women. They are both extremely knowledgeable about their specialties, technically proficient and as compassionate as they come. Both have treated me for over twenty years. I, literally, trust them with my life.



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