One Equal World

The LGBT Community and Medical Education

Posted on: February 16, 2016

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Back in 2010, a nationwide survey of over 7,000 transgender and gender non-conforming people revealed some alarming gaps in medical coverage. Fewer than 30% of those surveyed were out to their doctors, and 50% of the total said that they had had to teach their providers about transgender-specific health issues, leaving only about 20% with access to halfway-decent care. Around the same time, a survey done by Lambda Legal showed that nearly 60% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual patients and more than 70% of trans respondents had personally experienced roadblocks in their health care, everything from simple mis-education in their doctors to discrimination, being denied care, or outright verbal or physical abuse.

In October 2015, The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who dictates US health care practices, issued a mandate that all new electronic health care records include fields for gender identity and sexual orientation. The hope is that this new move will mean increased awareness in all US physicians of their patients’ needs.

The mandate is kind of a final resorts move. Studies over the last half-decade have shown that virtually all medical schools in the country are not trying to correct the issue. When Stanford queried 176 schools a few years ago, they found new doctors were required to take an average of only five hours of LGBT-related instruction, and that mostly focused on sexually-transmitted diseases. At the same time, most of the deans of the surveyed schools reported that they believed their LGBT education to be ‘good’ or ‘very good.’

A promising guide for future improvements have been offered by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the body that oversees student applications to medical schools and residencies. They released a novel-sized volume in 2014 titled “Implementing Curricular and Institutional Climate Changes to Improve Health Care for Individuals Who are LGBT, Gender Nonconforming, or born with DSD: A Resource for Medical Educators.” It lays out 30 ‘competencies’ or general areas of interest, which doctors need to better serve their LGBT patients.

As more institutions make the necessary changes to their programs, their graduates will become better doctors overall. LGBT issues are human issues, after all, and the experts who treat us all should have the broadest views they can.


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