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Finding a New Primary Care Physician: Should Their Gender Matter?

June 9th, 2023 | 4 min. read

By Janet Kiss, Membership

Male physician sitting with female patient

When searching for a new primary care doctor, you want to find the right fit. Someone you trust. Someone who provides the type of care you’re looking for.

At PartnerMD, we help people find the right doctor for them every day. One thing we help people figure out – does the gender of their primary care doctor matter?

It’s a common question. And there’s no definitive right answer. In 2018, a survey showed:

  • 51% of people have no preference
  • Among women, 46% prefer a female doctor while 44% have no preference.
  • Among men, 23% prefer a male doctor while 58% have no preference.

For some people, it’s important to have a physician that is the same gender as them. For others, it doesn’t matter. As we said, it’s up to you.

Female physician with older male patient

Gender of Your Primary Care Physician: A Physician’s Perspective

For a doctor, the job remains the same no matter the patient sitting in front of them. It’s to help them. To heal them. To help them live a healthy, happy life.

But perhaps it’s best to hear it straight from a physician.

Dr. Lindsay Sherrard is a female concierge doctor in our Midlothian, VA office, while Dr. Eric Haacke-Golden is a male concierge doctor in our Short Pump, VA office.

“As a physician, I do not believe it is necessary or particularly helpful to see a physician who is the same gender,” Dr. Sherrard says. “We are well-experienced with the medical concerns of both sexes. However, it might be true that a woman physician may be more able to empathize with female problems and a man physician with male problems. Some patients prefer a physician of their own gender or even their opposite gender, and those preferences can usually be accommodated.”

“I do not believe gender has ever changed my ability to care for a person,” Dr. Haacke-Golden says. “Gender is a factor in who a person is, and it becomes part of creating diagnoses and medical decision-making.”

And have they had some patients hesitant to discuss certain issues with them? How do they handle those tricky situations?

“I have had some men as patients who were hesitant to discuss personal health issues with me, as a woman,” Dr. Sherrard says. “I try to reassure them from the beginning that I have heard it all, and that they don't need to be embarrassed.”

“I would suggest that patients think about the qualities they are looking for in a doctor and try to see if the provider meets those qualities,” Dr. Haacke-Golden says. “I don’t think you need to be the same gender as your doctor for this to occur.”

Male physician speaking with female patient

Why might the gender of your primary care doctor matter?

“A good medical relationship is trust-based,” Dr. Haacke-Golden says. “If you don’t feel comfortable with your provider for any reason, gender included, then the relationship isn’t ideal.”

And that’s really the crux of it. The best primary care comes from a doctor you trust completely. If you’re one of the 46% of women who prefer a female doctor or 23% of men who prefer a male doctor, that’s ok.

What’s important is that you completely trust your doctor, so that they can provide the best care possible for you. Don’t hinder your own care by sticking with a doctor you don’t completely trust.

Why might the gender of your primary care doctor not matter?

Doctors are trained to be empathetic listeners who deal with myriad issues every day, especially primary care doctors.

Chances are your doctor has seen and heard it all. They are professional and well-educated in a variety of areas. They don’t go to female-specific medical schools or do a male-specific residency.

No matter your gender or their gender, it is likely you can get the same quality of care.

“I am certain that none of us physicians would want a patient to neglect to mention a concern about their health because they felt uncomfortable,” Dr. Sherrard says. “Talking about personal health problems or doing physical examinations of body parts that are usually covered doesn't bother us. It is just part of our business in taking care of the whole patient.”

If you trust them enough and feel comfortable with them, give it a shot. It’s the trust-based relationship that matters most. That’s what is ultimately going to guide your care.

Male physician listening to lungs of female patient

Concierge Doctors at PartnerMD

We have a mix of male and female physicians at PartnerMD. We also have a mix of internal medicine physicians and family physicians. And we frequently help patients find the right fit for them.

Sometimes it is gender-specific. But other times it is personality-driven or specialty-related.

Our team is adept at talking through what is important to you and what you’re looking for in a doctor and matching you with the right person. We also are happy to provide a meet-and-greet consultation with any of our physicians, so you can talk with them before deciding.

Overall, our advice when it comes to gender would be this — don’t jump to a conclusion. Take a tour or meet-and-greet with a doc and see if they’re someone you can trust. You might just miss out on an opportunity for outstanding care.

How Concierge Medicine Ensures You Get the Best Experience Possible

Whether you care about the gender of your PCP or not, we believe the most important thing is that you get the best care possible. You might get that through a traditional primary care doctor.

But you might also find yourself dissatisfied with the traditional primary care experience.
The waiting for an appointment. The rushed 10-minute visit with your doctor. The inability to get care except when the office is open.

If that’s the case, perhaps it’s time to consider an alternative primary care model. At PartnerMD, we do concierge medicine. We believe hassle-free primary care is just the foundation of a better primary care experience.

  • When you join PartnerMD you get greater access to a great doctor, but that's just the beginning.
  • You get access to the most customizable advanced physicals to help identify hidden vulnerabilities to your health.
  • And you get access to wellness programs and certified health coaches who provide expertise and accountability to support a healthy lifestyle.

All that is wrapped up in one membership designed to provide better healthcare for an even better you.

Want to learn more about concierge medicine? Download our free Understanding Concierge Medicine e-book.

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Janet Kiss, Membership