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WG Sex, Gender and Diversity in Medical Research

Why consider sex, gender and diversity in scientific research?

Sex, gender and diversity aspects in medicine are increasingly attracting the attention of doctors and scientists, but are still not sufficiently taken into account in research and clinical practice. For example, clinical studies are often only conducted on male subjects, although gender-specific differences relevant to symptoms and the course of treatment have been proven. Consequently, treatment options, diagnostic criteria and medication dosages are often geared solely towards men (Bartig et al. 2021).

Overall, the care situation of minorities who are discriminated against on the basis of characteristics such as ethnicity, religion, physical impairment or sexual orientation is in many respects worse due to the lack of consideration of diversity (Dennis et al. 2019), and there are significant knowledge gaps in this area. Here are some examples:

Sex and Gender:

  • nine times more frequent occurrence of adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus in men than in women, even though the underlying major risk factor is only twice as common in men (Xie & Lagergren 2016)
  • significantly more frequent presence of specific somatic KRAS mutations (G12C) in colorectal cancer in women (Nassar et al. 2021)
  • twice the risk of developing Parkinson's disease in men, but higher mortality rate and faster disease progression in women (Cerri et al. 2019)

Diversity: 

  • Inequalities in treatment trajectories and outcomes for certain groups, e.g. due to exclusive reference to white skin in dermatology (Mukwende et al. 2020; Gregersen & Elsner 2021)
  • disproportionate mortality of People of Colour (PoC) in the pandemic (Price-Haywood et al. 2020; Webb Hooper et al. 2020; Devakumar et al 2020; Bhala et al. 2020)
  • increased risk of discrimination-related mental health problems, e.g. psychotic episodes (Kluge et al. 2020) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Williams et al. 2021).

In order to advance the structural integration of gender- and diversity-specific considerations in research, crucial institutions have developed research-oriented guidelines and specifications. These include the German Research Foundation (DFG), the European Commission and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) also launched its own guideline "Gender Aspects in View" last year.

The exact literature references as well as guidelines mentioned can be found here.

Activities at the Faculty

Although still largely unknown, our faculty is also involved in this field. For example, the first meeting of the Cologne Group of Gender-specific Oncobiology (CGGO) took place in 2020. The Department of Medical Psychology has the extended affiliation Medical Psychology | Neuropsychology and Gender Studies, where, among other things, gender is studied as a predictor of cognitive decline in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

An overview of internal faculty publications on this range of topics can be found here. If you know of other publications/research papers by our faculty, we would be pleased if you would submit them to Kübra Yilmaz (kuebra.yilmaz@uk-koeln.de).

In view of these developments and the existing research gaps, we have now established the WG Sex, Gender and Diversity in Medical Research at our faculty.

Currently defined goals of the WG are

  • to obtain an overview of medical research including sex, gender and diversity aspects and to make this available to the faculty and the public.
  • to increase sensitivity for gender-, sex- and diversity-specific phenomena as well as for diversity in medicine.
  • to promote cooperation between scientists on campus, to acquire joint third-party funding - and ultimately to contribute to knowledge in this field that will enrich precision medicine in the future.
  • to give students an overview of possible contacts for doctoral or other scientific theses.

Speakers of the WG

Prof. Dr. Elke Kalbe
Deputy Dean
Vice Dean for Academic Development and Gender
Director: Medical Psychology | Neuropsychology and Gender Studies & Centre for Neuropsychological Diagnostics and Intervention (CeNDI)

Prof. Dr. Alexander Quaas
Vice Director
Chair: Diseases of GastroIntestinal-Tract; Consultant of Histopathology
Gastrointestinal Cancer Group Cologne 

Subgroups

So far, four subgroups have formed:

If you would like to participate in a working group, please contact the respective working group leader.

The second meeting of all participants and interested parties took place on 15.02.2022. Further meetings of the large group will take place every six months. The exact dates will be published here. If you are interested in participating or have further questions, comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us at DEK-AkadEntw-GenderSpamProtectionuk-koeln.de.

Participants

Here you will find profiles of some of the participants, some of whom are also available to supervise doctoral theses:

We would be very pleased to hear from further interested parties for our "profile collection". You can download the profile template at the top right of the website and send send the completed profile and a profile picture to Kübra Yilmaz (kuebra.yilmazSpamProtectionuk-koeln.de).