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    The Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards: General Staff Writing - Gold

    The Unfair Sex, Discoveries magazine - Winter 2020
    The Unfair Sex, Discoveries Winter 2020

    “The Unfair Sex” by Cassie Tomlin and Nicole Levine, Discoveries Winter 2020

    Gender inequality permeates healthcare. Medical studies excluded female patients for decades, while women’s symptoms have been dismissed for centuries. In this special report, we feature real women who have overcome a biased system, and shine light on the female clinicians and investigators leading the charge to understand and solve women’s health challenges. By calling attention to gender inequities that permeate American healthcare, the cover feature and video series showed not only how the Cedars-Sinai physicians and researchers are helping bridge the gender gap, but also highlighted how female patients persisted in advocating for their care.

    The team took a multi-platform approach to the project: a series of strong, emotionally moving feature articles, along with a brief video and social media posts. The magazine feature includes an overview of gender inequities in medicine and the testimonials of eight women who describe their shocking experiences with physicians — before finding support and solutions at Cedars-Sinai.

    “Pain gripped Victoria Ventura’s chest so fiercely she couldn’t climb stairs, eat—or even take a deep breath.

    It throbbed down her arm and into her jaw, common symptoms of heart disease, but the first doctors she saw dismissed cardiac trouble as the...”

    What was the most impactful part of your award-winning entry?
    Real women sharing their own years-long struggles to be heard, diagnosed and treated combined with the innovations of scientists and clinicians determined to bridge the gender gap in medicine created a powerful narrative.

    What is one thing you learned from this experience?
    One fact we uncovered early in our research that stood out to the whole team is that even in laboratory studies, the animal subjects and even the cells used are overwhelmingly male cells.

    What challenge did you overcome?
    We were excited to find a broadly diverse group of women to feature. They varied in age, health condition, race, ethnicity, and in many other ways to showcase how gender directly affected their healthcare. We were then able to tell their stories through many media in one project.

    What was the biggest challenge in writing about this topic?
    Showcasing in limited space both the complexity of the problem, and the solution which lies in the education and training of physicians, thoroughly integrating women in decision-making and research at all levels, as well as rethinking how we design scientifically.


    Cassandra Tomlin, cassandra.tomlin@cshs.org