health

A male gynaecologist answers the weekend's strangest question: Why do you do your job?

Dr Joseph Sgroi was on his way to becoming a cardiologist when his wife had their first child.

“The whole experience was so joyous, it was fantastic. It made me realise what my passion had been all along,” the Melbourne-based obstetrician told Mamamia.

Dr Sgroi went back to medical school and retrained in obstetrics and gynaecology. He is now a highly regarded and sought after professional and expert in women’s health, pregnancy, childbirth and fertility.

He also happens to be a man.

You can listen to Dr Sgroi on Hello Bump. Post continues after podcast.

In fact, more than half of the O&G profession are male.

But a columnist for The Australian posed the question at the weekend: Is it really a job for a man? 

“I always gravitate towards female gynaecologists, just as I presume many men gravitate towards male andrologists and urologists. First-hand knowledge – why wouldn’t you?” Nikki Gemmell wrote.

“What’s their motivation to specialise in this most intimate of arenas?” she added.

Gemmell went on to relay that a female doctor friend had suggested that perhaps: “[Male gynaecologists] hate women, and like to see them in pain?”

It’s a claim Dr Sgroi completely rejects.

“None of us… no one goes into medicine to cause harm to people,” he said. “All of us go into it in an altruistic way to help people.”

The opinion immediately started a conversation online, with many in the medical community, along with their families, patients and colleagues, responding to Gemmell’s piece.

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Here are just some of their responses as seen on social media:

I have never regretted my career choice, and remain constantly in awe of women and their families as they negotiate the joy and challenge of creating a family.”

“Everyday of my working life is filled with admiration for the strength of women and the beauty of miracles.”

It is a calling, answered by passionate doctors both male and female, dedicated to the care of women, babies and ultimately families.”

I think that my chosen profession is a perfect blend of medicine and surgery, it provides constant intellectual challenges and a source of pride and joy.”‘

As a male gynaecologist and obstetrician helping women through childbirth, Dr Sgroi explained:”You can’t sympathise with a patient, but you can empathise. That empathy is driven across all areas of medicine.”

Empathy that comes after years of training, sometimes as many as 16 years training to specialise.

“I am there based on having done all this training, to be there at the readiness and with the preparedness of being able to assist if something goes wrong,” Dr Sgroi said.

And no, that doesn’t mean he’s a robot that doesn’t feel emotion.

“That’s not to say I haven’t cried at a birth. That’s not to say I haven’t cried when someone has had a miscarriage. Of course I have. I’ve had patients who have left my rooms and I’ve held it together until they’ve walked out before I’ve cried,” Dr Sgroi added.

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Dr Sgroi has only had a few experiences in his career when a woman has requested a female practitioner instead of a man “and it’s usually because of religious reasons,” he added.

And he says as doctors they are trained to pick up on and understand a woman’s lived experience.

“We always explore if there are any past issues that may have happened to them in terms of sexual abuse or birth trauma. We’re very mindful of that,” he said.

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For most doctors, regardless of gender, it is an honour and a privilege to work in obstetrics and women's reproductive health. Image:Getty

Dr Sgroi is compassionate, caring and gentle.

It's his job, as a doctor, and especially as a doctor dealing with the delicate area of obstetrics and gynaecology.

Of course there are going to be some in the profession that don't have great bedside manner, or that have done the wrong thing like in the case of Graeme Reeves, dubbed the 'Butcher of Bega'.

But that's the case in any profession. There are bad eggs no matter what the job.

But to suggest it's a systemic issue? That's where Dr Sgroi has an issue.

Dr Sgroi loves his job, in fact he considers it an honour. As do many in the profession who spend what feels like half their lives training to be able to do a job they love.

"I feel humbled to be involved. At the end of the day particularly in terms of childbirth and to be involved in that and to be able to help someone bring life into the world... it's a very humbling experience," Dr Sgroi told Mamamia.

What motivates someone to take on the long and difficult road that is specialising in gynaecology and obstetrics might be a legitimate question.

But for the vast majority of specialists - both male and female - the answer has nothing to do with sinister intentions and everything to do with altruism.

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