President's Message - International Women's Day - March 8, 2024

March 8, 2024

There is no health without women’s health. Despite this, health issues pertaining to women remain a significant concern within Canada and abroad. Women have unique health care needs that are necessary to be addressed. For example, women are affected by some diseases more than others such as breast cancer, autoimmune diseases, and osteoporosis. Women can also present for care with different symptoms than men with the same condition. Unfortunately, research has focused on the health of men rather than the entire population resulting in less effective diagnosis and treatment of women. Research needs to include a diverse group of participants including women to ensure that clinical care is meeting their needs. Canadian Medical Schools are not consistently exposing trainees to the full scope of women’s health1. There is a gap in providing educational training on women’s health in medical school and residency in Canada, even with research noting a lack of confidence of medical providers in providing this critical care2, 3, 4.

There are many areas of women’s health care that require improvement in access to care, diagnosis and treatment, quality of care and on-going research and policy change. The Canadian government recognizes that Canadians have a right to safe and consistent access to reproductive health services including abortion. However, many women face barriers to care. For example, immigrant adolescents lack awareness and knowledge of how to navigate the Canadian sexual health services5, 6. This is in spite of research that adequate knowledge about reproductive health leads to less unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and sexually transmitted infections7. Women must have access to care regardless of our location.

On International Women’s Day we unite with the women of the world to remind educators, policy makers and politicians that this is still much work to do.

The Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FMWC) was created 100 hundred years ago with the mission to promote the professional, social, and personal advancement of women physicians and to promote the well-being of women both in the medical profession and in society at large. Therefore, the FMWC recommends:

  1. The Guidance Document on the Inclusion of Women in Clinical Trials8 be updated with stronger language of inclusivity;
  2. Medical schools in Canada ensure adequate training in women’s health of all medical students, resident physicians, and staff. It should not just be taught as a block but integrated into all aspects of training;
  3. All Canadian women and girls have access to effective and efficient reproductive health care including, abortion, birth control and menstrual products regardless of ability to pay;
  4. And there is continued focus on increasing women physicians in leadership roles within the health care system so that their voices can be amplified in health care system changes and ensure women’s health is part of all polices.

Kimberly Williams, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Diplomate UCNS

President, FMWC


  1. Anderson, N.N. and Gagliardi, A.R. (2021. Medical student exposure to women’s health concepts and practices: a content analysis of curriculum at Canadian medical schools.BMC Med Educ 21, 435.
  2. Filler T, Dunn S, Grace SL, Straus SE, Stewart DE, and Gagliardi AR (2020). Multi-level strategies to tailor patient-centred care for women: qualitative interviews with clinicians. BMC Health Serv Res, 20,
  3. Dixon JG, Bognar BA, Keyserling TC, Du Pre CT, Xie SX, Wickstrom GC, et al. (2003). Teaching women’s health skills: confidence, attitudes and practice patterns of academic generalist physicians. J Gen Intern Med., 18, 411–8.
  4. McCall MA and Sorbie J. (1994). Educating physicians about women’s health. Survey of Canadian family medicine residency programs. Can Fam Physician, 40, 900–5.
  5. Homma Y, Saewyc EM, Wong ST, and Zumbo BD. (2013).Sexual health and risk behaviour among East Asian. Adolesc Br Columb Can J Hum Sex. 22, 13–24. 10.3138/cjhs.92
  6. Canadian Paediatric Society.(2018). Immigrant adolescent health, part 2: Guidance for clinicians. Caring for Kids New to Canada.
  7. Meherali S, Louie-Poon S, Idrees S, Kauser S, Scott S, Salami B, Valliantos H, Meherali KM, Patel K, Suthar P, Akbarzada Z, Marcus I, Khangura M, and Mangat A. (2022). Understanding the sexual and reproductive health needs of immigrant adolescents in Canada: A qualitative study. Front Reprod Health, 22, 4:940979. doi: 10.3389/frph.2022.940979. PMID: 36303669; PMCID: PMC9580723.
  8. Government of Canada. (2013). Guidance Document: Considerations for inclusion of Women in Clinical Trials and Analysis of Sex. Retrieved from