Emily Dwass is a writer living in Los Angeles. Having written for numerous publications about food, health, and cultural issues (including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today), she also served as the “Kid Health” columnist for the Los Angeles Times for four years. She has also written several feature scripts and been a writer on TV shows produced by Disney and Lifetime, among others. A writer by training and trade, she holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Illinois, and a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Several years ago, she struggled to receive effective medical treatment and was forced to have a craniotomy to remove a non-malignant brain tumor. This experience led her down the rabbit hole of adverse women’s health experiences – and she began research into the depth of medical bias, discovering how both medical research AND the health system are, in many ways, rigged against women’s better health. This served as the jumping-off-point for her groundbreaking book, Diagnosis Female: How Medical Bias Endangers Women’s Health. In this episode, she sat down with Lauren to discuss her personal journey and what she discovered. Both shocking and revelatory, her exposé reminds us that health is a human right, and gives us hope that with accurate information, we can begin to better serve everyone.
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Join us as Emily shares…
- the focus of her book: cardiology, neurology, autoimmunity, and gynecology
- that she had strange neurological symptoms for 4 years, at which point she was incorrectly diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome – but never offered tests (MRI) to confirm the diagnosis
- that she was eventually given the correct diagnosis of a meningioma – a non-malignant brain tumor that had been growing for years – and offered a craniotomy to remove it
- that if she’d been diagnosed years earlier, she would have had more treatment options – including one-day radiation – as opposed to the craniotomy she was forced to have
- that she had a recurrence of the meningioma, and this time was treated with one-day radiation
- that her meningioma recurrence wasn’t noticed early on, because it was revealed that her physician likely hadn’t personally reviewed her imaging
- about the concept of empathy, and the patient-doctor dynamic
- her family’s choice regarding health insurance after she was diagnosed with her meningioma
- that she didn’t share with her employers about her diagnosis – because in Hollywood you can’t be “female, old, and sick”
- the concept of hysteria, and how an antiquated idea has trickled into modern women’s healthcare
- that for most of medical history, research has been done not only on male humans – but also on male tissue, cells, and animals – which reveals massive gaps in our knowledge and understanding
- that all of medical research excluded women until 1993
- that it wasn’t until 2016 that the NIH included sex as a biological variable in research – and mandated equity of male and female cells (which still isn’t always followed-through on)
- that disparities in research filter into clinical care – in that males are considered typical, while women are considered atypical – leaving women with a systemic lack of recognition in the medical industry
- concerns with medical devices, particularly in gynecology – which are often approved without proper research. The most poignant example is the use of power morcellators, which have been known to spread cancers during/after fibroid removal (and examples in which women haven’t had voices in their own care)
- that doctors can have relationships with companies that design medical devices or produce pharmaceuticals, which can influence your care
- that the #MeToo movement may help women become stronger self-advocates in their medical care
- that women of color are disproportionately misdiagnosed, under-diagnosed, and generally disregarded by the medical industry
- the concept of medical trauma, and that women of color experience greater micro-traumas over time, which add up
- her advice: have an “elevator pitch” for your doctor visit, bring an advocate, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion
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