An important goal for medical education today is professional development including gender equality and awareness of gender issues. Medical school is the breeding background for not only medical knowledge but also for professional development and careers, including equal opportunities and gender equality.
In order to understand how unequal the division of labour in the medical profession actually is and the process of how it has changed from the past to the present, the following points must be considered:
Historically both the gendered role of nursing and the sex of nurses were almost exclusively female. More than half of the people involved in health care have always been women. Historically, women were considered healers, and it was they who gave almost all the medical help that was available until two centuries ago. It may well be said that most practical medicine was in the hands of women in the past times. Even though women were more often than not completely ignored when applying for admittance to medical schools, it was almost solely women, who gathered herbs and infused them into vegetable remedies, bathed the arthritic and manipulated their joints, and looked after pregnant women and delivered their babies.
"However in classical Egypt for many centuries women had a significant role as physicians, notably in the medical schools at Heliopolis and Sais." (Carr, n.d.). During the dark ages, the best known woman was Hildegarde of Bingen (1098-1179), who apparently had visions explained to her in Latin by a voice from heaven, and concluded by writing two medical manuscripts on plant animal and mineral medicines, and on physiology and the nature of the disease. Women were also involved in folk, alternative, and commercial medicine at this time, although many notable women who specialized in these areas are hard to classify. Women made many important contributions to medicine, such as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who discovered the technique of inoculation against smallpox, or the 'old woman in Shropshire' who was responsible for the discovery of digitalis.
From the 17th century on, new hospitals were opened which were controlled by the church and organized by nuns. This was undoubtedly "a formal beginning to the clear division of healing duties along a gender line; nurses were usually women until recently." (Carr, n.d.).
In 18th century Europe, the medical profession started to become an increasingly rigid and formal occupation. This was at a time when "men dominated the social and economic position of women." (Carr, n.d.). Men were considered the ones who actually controlled entry to the professions of the field of medicine; by the 1900s there