The National Study Centre on Health and Gender Medicine

Giovannella Baggio

President of the National Study Centre on Health and Gender Medicine

The Centro Studi Nazionale su Salute e Medicina di Genere (National Study Centre on Health and Gender Medicine) started its activity in 2009, when it was founded as a result of a fortunate convergence of interests by some and professionals from Padua and Milan together with the Giovanni Lorenzini Medical Science Foundation (Milan-Houston) and the Padua University Hospital, where its headquarters are based according to its bylaws. The aim was to launch, disseminate, deepen and above all encourage research and knowledge in the field of gender differences in medicine. Despite the exceptional progress in medical research in recent decades, there had been a total lack of attention to this dimension until then. Gender medicine is not the study of diseases that are prevalent in men or women, but the study of differences in all diseases that affect both women and men and that may have differences in pathogenetic mechanisms, diagnostics, symptoms, clinical course, and response to therapy. Likewise, it should not be forgotten that prevention, including risk assessment, should also be carried out from a gender-specific perspective.

With this objective in mind, in almost ten years of activity, the Study Centre has engaged many Italian people and realities committed to fostering the growth of sensitivity and knowledge on gender medicine through conferences, participation in dedicated sessions of the various scientific societies, meetings with political and social decision-makers, participation in the growth of gender medicine in the different Regions, and networking with all realities, for example universities, and national and international associations dedicated to the development and application of this dimension of medicine.

Many national conferences have been held, taking stock of the progress made by gender medicine in Italy. The first was held in 2009, paving the way for this dimension of medicine; the following instead started to create a network, an exchange of experiences and knowledge and important collaborations. In these years, conferences have been held every two years. In 2011, the first Italian conference on gender oncology was also held. To date, it continues to be a unique event in its kind, also at international level.

The Study Centre is also the Italian society recognized by the International Society of Gender Medicine and acts as a bridge between Italian realities and the international community.

One of the most valuable results of this work has been the development of an Italian network of gender medicine: the Centre of Referral of the Italian National Institute of Health, the Gruppo Italiano Salute e Genere (GISeG) - Italian Health and Gender Group - and the Centro Studi su Salute e Medicina di Genere - Study Centre on Health and Gender Medicine - are the pillars around which very important realities have been connected, such as the Federazione Nazionale degli Ordini dei Medici Chirurghi e degli Odontoiatri (FNOMCeO) - Italian National Federation of Medical and Orthodontic Associations -, the Federazione delle Associazioni dei Dirigenti Ospedalieri Internisti (FADOI) - Italian Federation of Internal Medicine Clinical Directors, the Società Italiana di Medicina Generale e delle Cure Primarie (SIMG) - Italian Society of Primary Health Care-, the Società Italiana di Reumatologia (SIR) - Italian Rheumatology Society-, the Associazione Italiana Donne Medico (AIDM) - Italian Association of Women Physicians - and many scientific societies. The contribution and coordination provided by the healthcare system in some Regions and with universities have also been significant. Today, in teaching medicine, the gender dimension is presented not as a separate subject, but as a facet to be developed in each subject of the curriculum.

This alliance has made Italy the European country where there is certainly more sensitivity, information and training on gender medicine.

In recent years we have also worked to raise awareness on the fact that gender medicine is not a branch of medicine in itself but a dimension that must pervade all branches of medical knowledge. That is why we want to move from a concept of gender medicine to that of generic-specific medicine, and this was the focus of the Conference in November 2017.

Finally, it should be remembered that, precisely because of the sensitivity promoted by the Study Centre on Health and Gender Medicine, in 2012 the Department of Molecular Medicine of the University of Padua founded the Chair of Gender Medicine, the first and only in Italy, which I am honoured to hold. This means that in recent years at the University of Padua there has been a dedicated course for students. This course has drawn the attention of the teaching staff at Medical School, who have alternated in teaching at numerous seminars, and who have then transferred gender differences as an absolutely essential dimension in teaching their specialties.

Centro Studi Nazionale su Salute
e Medicina di Genere