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Int J Med Educ. 2020 Jan 30;11:31-36. doi: 10.5116/ijme.5e08.b95b.

Gender and role models in the education of medical doctors: a qualitative exploration of gendered ways of thinking.

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Department of Education, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.



To examine how 'gendered ways of thinking' relate to role models in medical education.


This study employed an explorative, qualitative, and cross-sectional design. A total of 57 interviews were held with medical students (28 interviews) and with faculty members (29 interviews) at a Swedish medical school. Participants were asked to describe their role models and the attributes that made certain individuals role models. Data were analysed using an inductive approach in three separate steps that explored the relationship between role models and gender.


Males do not generally consider female doctors as role models, and male role models are generally viewed as more admirable than female role models. This was shown in all steps of the analysis and most prominently in how male role models were described as qualitatively more admirable than female role models. Male role models are thus more common (for male and female students) and described as more admirable. The results point to the persistence of 'gendered ways of thinking' that subtly shape medical students.


Gendering role models is disadvantageous to female doctors in several ways, so the results have implications for women's career paths and opportunities. The results can thus form a basis for discussing and teaching the importance of gender in role modelling and in medical education in general.


career opportunities; equality; gender; medical education; role models

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