US Pharm. 2010;35(2):3.

Five-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Johnny Weissmuller wasn’t the first actor to play Tarzan in the movies, but he was in the original Tarzan “talkie” in 1932. Tarzan was a fictional person who lived in the jungle, swinging his well-toned physique from vine to vine wearing nothing but a loincloth. He generally appeared opposite another fictional jungle character, Jane, played by Maureen O’Sullivan. Many considered Tarzan the ultimate chauvinist because he was constantly saving Jane from the many dangers of living in the wild. While some critics attribute the line “Me Tarzan, you Jane” to a Tarzan movie script, according to at least one commentator it really happened on the studio’s back lot when Ms. O’Sullivan was struggling to put a heavy suitcase into the trunk of her car. Mr. Weissmuller came to her aid and jokingly uttered the now notorious line. While it really doesn’t matter where the line originated, it has always been viewed as the epitome of male chauvinism. As the population continues to age, the Tarzan character is becoming a distant memory for many, and the chauvinistic line is rarely used anymore in today’s social settings.

While male chauvinism may live on, according to an article in the Harvard Men’s Health Watch men will likely have to give up the self-centered title of the stronger sex…at least when it comes to their health. It’s a well-known fact that men generally don’t see a physician as often as women do. But according to the article, men are making a big mistake, as they are, medically speaking, the weaker sex. The article’s authors point to a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that women have substantially higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL), which helps protect them against heart disease. While both males and females can be obese, women tend to carry their weight on their hips and thighs; men who are overweight generally add girth to their waistline, which is a less healthy circumstance and can lead to a variety of disorders, such as heart attack and stroke. Then there are a number of social factors that affect men more often than women. These include type A personality, stress, hostility, and anger, which can have a direct effect on cardiac health. Also, women tend to have larger and more reliable social networks than men, leading to more stability and less stress in their lives; this often translates into fewer health problems. Some other differentiations include smoking, drinking, drug abuse, and bad diets, all of which are more prevalent in men.

So what does all this have to do with the profession of pharmacy? Well, it is interesting to note that when I graduated from pharmacy school, the retail pharmacist workforce was predominately male, while  patients coming into the pharmacy were predominately female. Regardless, most male pharmacists felt very comfortable talking to female patients about common female disorders. Today, the majority of graduating pharmacists are womenby some estimates about 70% or more. And while pharmacy clientele remains predominately female, when a man comes into the pharmacy, are female pharmacists comfortable talking about sensitive men’s health issues like benign prostate hyperplasia, prostate cancer, or erectile dysfunction?

Given the current evidence that men are the weaker sex when it comes to personal health, it is important that female pharmacists better understand men’s health issues and counsel male clients when they come into the pharmacy. We know that men don’t like to see a doctor, but the pharmacy could be the perfect setting for them to get much needed medical advice. Because, let’s face it, even Tarzan got sick once in a while.

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