dr claytonThe Washington Post health reporter Marlene Cimons recently interviewed ORWH Director Janine A. Clayton, M.D., on women’s risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In an October 19 article, titled “Women Are More Than Twice as Likely as Men to Suffer from PTSD,” Dr. Clayton states that PTSD in men more often stems from violent experiences later in life, whereas in women it often results from early-life sexual trauma. “[W]omen are likely to experience sexual assaults and sexual abuse at a younger age, when the brain is developing, and they are at increased risk for PTSD later in life,” she says, adding that it is important to understand that PTSD is not about a personal failure. “PTSD is an illness. If you had a broken leg, you’d put a cast on it. You don’t need to be strong and walk on. This is something that can and needs to be treated,” Clayton says. 

Emily Paulsen of Clinical Practice Today, a publication distributed to physicians practicing in many Southern States, also interviewed Dr. Clayton for an article titled “Recognizing, Addressing Unintended Gender Bias in Patient Care.” Therein, Dr. Clayton explains that many women might not be receiving appropriate clinical care due to there being relatively little research data specifically relevant to the health of women. She explained that certain historical trends in research led to this problem. For example, many designers of clinical trials in the past excluded women, particularly those of child-bearing age, out of concern for adverse effects on their babies and because scientists believed they could not appropriately account for women’s variable hormonal status. Also, medical researchers often assumed that the biology of men and women differed only in terms of reproductive matters. Our current understanding, Dr. Clayton explains, is that sex affects many aspects of biology and health, including metabolism, cell physiology, as well as disease presentation, progression, and treatment. Although women now represent more than half of the participants in NIH-funded clinical trials and there is a greater recognition of the need to account for sex as a biological variable at every stage of research, the unfortunate history of medical research has resulted in gaps in the knowledge base that can affect the care women receive today. The article provides tips to help clinicians prevent gender bias in patient care.