A Brief History of the Sex and Gender Health Collaborative
Mary K. Rojek PhD
The Sex and Gender Health Collaborative began as the Women’s Health Working Group of the American Medical Women’s Association in 2008. The group’s goal was to advance women’s health throughout medical education. Even though scientific evidence showed that there were many differences between men and women for many health conditions, this information was not being integrated into medical curricula. In addition, there was a great deal of research that showed that there were many social and gender related factors that influenced women’s health which should be integrated into medical curricula. The working group determined that it would accomplish this goal by creating a digital resource library. This library would be a collection of curricula and other teaching resources for faculty so that they could integrate this information into their own course materials. The American College of Women’s Health Physicians (ACWHP) provided support for the digital library.
The working group members decided to organize as a new entity, the Advancing Women’s Health Collaborative. Members had been concerned about whether all faculty members would be comfortable accessing resource materials on a website that focused on women physicians. An initial digital resource library was created. Advancing Women’s Health Collaborative’s technological partner supported the group’s activities, but the website was difficult to access due to user registration requirements. At the same time, there was an increasing awareness among leaders of the Advancing Women’s Health Collaborative that the social factors and gender issues that influenced women’s health also influenced men’s health, and thus should also be integrated into medical curricula.
In 2012, the Advancing Women’s Health group reorganized once again as a 501c3 and renamed themselves the Sex and Gender Women’s Health Collaborative (SGWHC). The name of the new organization, SGWHC, reflected the initial focus on women’s health which was still inadequately addressed in medical curricula, along with the fact that sex and gender issues were relevant to both men’s and women’s health. While the focus of the collaborative would be on addressing women’s health issues in medical curricula, men’s health would also be addressed.
SGWHC’s founding partners were the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR), and the American College of Women’s Health Physicians (ACWHP). At SGWHC’s inception, ACWHP merged into SGWHC. Subsequently, SGWHC also collaborated with and was supported by the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Collaborative relationships were established with many other healthcare groups and organizations.
Although SGWHC was successful in advancing the new science of sex and gender medicine in research and medical education, national progress was slow. SGWHC wanted to continue to offer curricular resource materials to faculty at no cost and in an easily accessible manner, but it did not have the resources to fully develop and market the materials. Board members were once again considering how they could advance the integration of sex and gender content into medical curricula.
The American Medical Women’s Association offered to partner with SGHWC more formally in order to advance their similar missions. AMWA’s previous commitment to women’s health in medical education had expanded to encompass sex and gender health education. SGWHC board members decided to merge into AMWA so that they could advance their mission by benefitting from AMWA’s institutional infrastructure, support, and from their shared vision. SGWHC merged into AMWA in 2018. Upon merger, SGWHC was renamed the Sex and Gender Health Collaborative (SGHC). This name change reflected growth in the science of sex and gender medicine and the increasing importance of explicitly considering and identifying sex and gender differences between women and men. It was believed that improvements in women’s health would correspond with improvements in men’s health. The new name would also reflect the growth of interprofessional education and the increasing need to integrate sex and gender content into all health professions education. While interprofessional education had been a future goal for SGWHC, the founding of SGHC provided an opportunity to bring this goal into the present. SGHC is at the forefront of advancing sex and gender in medical and health professions education, research, and practice in order to improve healthcare for all.