A few months ago, I ran into a friend of mine, out for a walk with a male companion. The first thing that struck me about my friend’s date was that he wasn’t very handsome and well-dressed. But the next thing I noticed about him were his lively and intelligent eyes and the laugh lines around them. In the brief chat that the three of us had on that street Corner, he impressed me with how charming he was and how attentive he was to my friend. I walked away very pleased that she had found someone so appropriate.
My friend is not a shallow person, but she clearly felt uncomfortable with the social pressure of dating someone who didn’t look the way she thought her escort should. She undoubtably knew, without my saying a word, what I had thought when I first laid eyes on him, and I wish that we were close enough for me to tell her what I thought next. I felt very sad for her when I heard they had broken up, and even sadder when she showed up at a dinner party we were both attending with a stunningly handsome man who treated her as if she were a not-very-intelligent-child of five.
I am no soothsayer, but I feel sure that my friend had a much better chance of happiness and laughter with the man she was with when I ran into her that day, even if she had to stoop a little to kiss him. And yes, women like her throw away great relationships all the time (or nip them in the bud before they even begin) because the man is inappropriate in some way – too short, not handsome enough, not well dressed enough, not intellectual or wealthy enough, the wrong race or religion, too young or too old.
The social pressure isn’t limited to women; in fact, it may be worse for men. If there’s one thing I know as a doctor, it’s that you can’t control other people’s behavior. But if you take one piece of advice from this book, I hope it’s this: “throw away all your old preconceived notions about what Prince charming is going to look like, how old he will be, what he will wear, or what he’s going to talk about at parties; it will make you much more likely to find him.
Marianne J. Legato, MD, Ph. D. (hon. c.), FACP is an internationally renowned academic, physician, author, lecturer, and pioneer in the field of gender-specific medicine. She is a Professor Emerita of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Dr. Legato is also the Director of the Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine, which she founded in 2006 as a continuation of her work with The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University. She received an honorary PhD from the University of Panama in 2015 for her work on the differences between men and women.
At its core, gender-specific medicine is the science of how normal human biology differs between men and women and how the diagnosis and treatment of disease differs as a function of gender. Dr. Legato’s discoveries and those of her colleagues have led to a personalization of medicine that assists doctors worldwide in understanding the difference in normal function of men and women and in their sex-specific experiences of the same diseases.
She began her work in gender-specific medicine by authoring the first book on women and heart disease, The Female Heart: The Truth About Women and Coronary Artery Disease, which won the Blakeslee Award of the American Heart Association in 1992. Because of this research, the cardiovascular community began to include women in clinical trials affirming the fact that the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment of the same disease can be significantly different between the sexes. Convinced that the sex-specific differences in coronary artery disease were not unique, Dr. Legato began a wide-ranging survey of all medical specialties and in 2004, published the first textbook on gender-specific medicine, The Principles of Gender-Specific Medicine. The second edition appeared in 2010 and the third edition, dedicated to explaining how gender impacts biomedical investigation in the genomic era, won the PROSE Award in Clinical Medicine from the Association of American Publishers in 2018. A fourth edition is forthcoming.
She also founded the first scientific journals publishing new studies in the field, The Journal of Gender-Specific Medicine, and a newer version, Gender Medicine, both listed in the Index Medicus of the National Library of Medicine. She has founded a third peer-reviewed, open access journal, Gender and the Genome, which focuses on the impact of biological sex on technology and its effects on human life.
Dr. Legato is the author of multiple works, including: What Women Need to Know (Simon & Schuster, 1997), Eve’s Rib (Harmony Books, 2002), Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget (Rodale, 2005), Why Men Die First (Palgrave, 2008), The International Society for Gender Medicine: History and Highlights (Academic Press, 2017), and most recently, The Plasticity of Sex (Academic Press, 2020). Her books have been translated into 28 languages to date.
As an internationally respected authority on gender medicine, Dr. Legato has chaired symposia and made keynote addresses to world congresses in gender-specific medicine in Berlin, Israel, Italy, Japan, Panama, South Korea, Stockholm, and Vienna. In collaboration with the Menarini Foundation, she is co-chairing a symposium on epigenetics, Sex, Gender and Epigenetics: From Molecule to Bedside, to be held in Spring 2021 in Italy. She maintains one of the only gender-specific private practice in New York City, and she has earned recognition as one of the “Top Doctors in New York.”