Alice,

Can you explain to me why I should not be bothered by the fact that my girlfriend goes to a male gynecologist (actually a group of four doctors). Am I supposed to believe that when a beautiful girl has her legs spread these doctors are not turned on? Is there a course in medical school that teaches a person to not have sexual thoughts and desires while on duty, but be able to turn these right back on when they go home to their wives or girlfriends? I have not seen this question addressed before. Please help me to understand.

Thank-you.

Dear Reader,

Health care providers, like the rest of us, are human beings; on occasion, a provider may unintentionally notice that a patient is attractive, or even experience feelings of arousal. However, as you postulate, good providers are able to set these thoughts aside and maintain a professional relationship with their patients. Health care providers who deliberately fantasize while examining their patients or, worse yet, are verbally and physically inappropriate with patients, violate ethical and legal standards for which they should be held accountable. If such incidents occur, the American Medical Association (AMA) recommends reporting offenders to medical licensing boards (state agencies) in the state where the doctor practices.

Not convinced yet? Well, here's another angle that you might consider: while your girlfriend is no doubt beautiful and attractive to you, health care providers (like the rest of us), each have their own ideal of beauty and are likely not attracted to most of their patients. What's more, during a given week or month, doctors see hundreds of breasts, penises, vaginas, scrotums, buttocks, and every other body part. This unending parade of private parts can only help to remove any sexual or emotional attachment to the owners of these organs.

On a different note, consider that for some women finding a gynecologist is a formidable task. Perhaps your girlfriend has found a competent health care provider who she feels comfortable with (and who just happens to be male) — this would be something to celebrate, rather than cause for concern. It may also be prudent to consider the level of trust and communication between you and your girlfriend. Do you feel jealous or threatened by her male doctors? And if so, are you dissatisfied with the way things are going between the two of you? Do you have confidence in your relationship, or can you work to make it better?

Talking with your girlfriend about your feelings, or even talking them over with a professional counselor, might ease your mind. If you are a student at Columbia, you can make an appointment with a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services on the Morningside campus or the Mental Health Service at the Medical Center campus.

Best of luck to you,

Alice!

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