Dr. Strangeglove

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Do Breast and Pelvic Exams

The Teaching Associates Program of New York has provided similar services for 20 years, supporting almost every med school in New York City. Program coordinator Sau-fong Au told me that GTAs are recruited through hospitals, health care and women's advocacy groups, and word of mouth. Associates must complete 60 hours of training before they are sent out to teach. In programs Au supervises, GTAs may demonstrate breast and pelvic exams on each other before students have their turn. Students generally have three main concerns: thoughts about sex, hurting the patient, and doing it right. As far as the women's motivation, they are "well compensated," but mainly, Au cites their devotion to improving health care. Some of them may have had poor experiences with doctors, and what could be more empowering than teaching future doctors how to do it right? And who better to teach than women who know and are comfortable with their bodies? Au emphasized that respect is due these women, and that some may falsely see them as "easy women" for being so open, an image not helped by the fact that when these programs began 20 to 30 years ago, many teaching associates were prostitutes.

I may not see myself as a future OB-GYN, but I got through my first breast and pelvic, and it turns out, I think I can handle this. But there's no time to relax. Next week, I've got my first male genitourinary and rectal.

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