First Swiss chair of gender medicine to be created in Zurich

Women testing for Covid in Chur, eastern Switzerland, in 2021. It is now known that women suffer more than men from the long-term consequences of Covid-19, but the majority of medical research in general is still geared towards men. Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

The University of Zurich is creating a chair in gender medicine. This is a first in Switzerland for this discipline, which studies the biological and socio-cultural differences between men and women and the influence of these factors on health and illness.

This content was published on January 31, 2023 - 10:25

“That there are differences between men and women has been known for 30 years. Yet women are still not treated appropriately,” Catherine Gebhard said in a statementExternal link issued by the University of Zurich on Monday. She is a professor and senior cardiologist at the Inselspital Bern and has been researching gender medicine for several years.

Women and men fall ill in different ways and react differently to medication, she said. “But despite this knowledge the majority of research is still geared towards men. This is also evident in animal studies, which are mainly conducted on male animals.” As a consequence, women are underserved, Gebhard said. For example, the risk of being misdiagnosed with a heart attack is seven times higher for a young woman than for a man of the same age.

Covid discoveries

However, the pandemic has given gender medicine a boost, Gebhard said. Men contracted Covid-19 significantly more often and more severely than women. The reasons for this have yet to be clarified. But one thing is clear, she said: “At moments like these we pay the price for the lack of gender-specific basic research.”

In the case of women, it can now be seen that they suffer more from the long-term consequences of Covid-19. “Especially well-educated women who are very busy and single seem to be at high risk for Long Covid,” Gebhard said. She called for more medical research to be devoted to such socio-cultural factors – so-called gender aspects – even if this makes research more complex.

The University of Zurich said four promising female candidates had already presented their research at a public symposium. The chair should be filled by the beginning of 2024 at the latest, it said.

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