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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, April 16, 2007

Short White Coat: What I didn't learn in high school biology

Short White Coat is our new blog, written by first-year Harvard medical student Ishani Ganguli. Ishani's posts will appear here, as part of White Coat Notes. E-mail Ishani at shortwhitecoat@gmail.com.

Who says medical school can’t be fun? I’m taking Human Sexuality in Medicine, a spring elective meant to supply future doctors with the knowledge and vocabulary to discuss this sometimes uncomfortable subject with patients. In previous weeks we’ve covered the anatomy and physiology of it, as well as what can go wrong.

During Thursday’s session, a sex therapist with effusive gesturing habits shared her experiences in the field with our predominantly female classroom.

Lessons learned: Talk to each member of a couple individually to root out the cause of complaints in the bedroom. Don’t be afraid to talk methods. And even 85-year-olds have concerns about sex (so ask).

Besides discussing how to bring up sexuality in a patient doctor conversation (Do you have sex with males, females, or both? is the somewhat jarring standard), we addressed such questions as—what happens when a patient hits on you? And what if you accidentally hit on him? It was the type of conversation I’d have with girlfriends, poring over Cosmo at a sleepover (yes, such stereotypes are valid). But this time, we were taking it to a professional level, with the guidance of an expert.

Class was followed with a highly anticipated field trip to the Brookline branch of Good Vibrations, a chic “sexuality product retailer” with a sense of humor. Store-clerks gave us a hands-on tour of the boutique, pointing out books, videos, toys, games, and other merchandise designed to shield, stimulate, and educate. On several occasions, I was compelled to check if my phone was vibrating (it wasn’t).

All in all, we picked up information that’s good to know, for our future patients.

Posted by Ishani Ganguli at 01:33 PM
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