Several years ago, the Gastroenterology Clinics of North America released a publication devoted to Women’s Issues, reflecting an early awareness of potential differences in women’s gastrointestinal (GI) health and management. Since that time, our understanding of the effect of gender on our approach to GI diseases has increased substantially, and addressing the uniqueness of women’s GI health has become an important goal in our profession. Increasingly, data have been sought to clarify differences between men and women in the pathophysiology of disease states, the variability in presentation, and the success in treatment and management of disease. A greater consciousness of gender differences in disease complications and an awareness of distinct features of female patients’ perception of disease and health may contribute to optimizing women’s GI health care.
The role of female gastroenterologists is central to the changing approach to women’s health. While women outnumber men in medical school, there is not yet gender parity in numbers of GI fellows, and the percentage of female gastroenterologists remains strikingly low. With increasing frequency, fellowship programs include women’s health training, and there is growing recognition that female leadership in GI Divisions and on the national stage can constructively shape the growth and direction of the field of gastroenterology.
The goal of this issue is to present GI diseases that affect women uniquely, such as pelvic floor problems and pregnancy-related disorders, and to examine common GI conditions that require a more considered approach in women, such as functional bowel disease or autoimmune processes. It will also address the position of women and female gastroenterologists in the health system as a whole. The progress and the challenges we have witnessed in the last decade are discussed in the last article of this issue by two eminent society leaders who provide inspiration and direction for future initiatives.
This issue, dedicated to Women’s GI Health, is published at an exciting, transitional time in the future of our profession, as we adjust approaches for the assessment of disease in a large portion of our patient population, and as we address the challenges in practicing a more personalized medicine based on the uniqueness of specific populations.