LGBTQ Representation In Medicine And Treatment By Medical Providers May Be Improving

Supermajority Education Fund

February 25, 2020

LGBTQ medical students and patients still encounter bias from and within the medical establishment and barriers to receiving treatment, including doctors not being familiar with hormone therapy, assuming all patients are straight and cisgender or making comments that are judgmental of queer and trans people. But as the Associated Press recently reported, major professional associations and medical schools are taking steps to address these biases. 

Dr. Jennifer Potter, co-chair of The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health, a research center focused on health issues and underserved communities, including LGBTQ people, affirmed to Supermajority News that schools are doing more work to ensure that they track and recruit LGBTQ students. A number of medical schools have started surveying applicants and matriculants internally on sexual orientation and gender, which includes their correct pronouns and chosen name, and the Association of American Medical Colleges has made it easier for students to identify trans applicants, as the AP also pointed out. Colleges are also updating admissions and other school websites to advertise LGBTQ+ student supports and curricular opportunities, ways for applicants to locate queer faculty, and more personal outreach to LGBTQ+ applicants to support them during the interview process while they decide on whether to attend the school, she added. 

While in medical school, curricula in some classrooms — like those in the University of Louisville, for example — is being adapted to include topics like gender-affirming hormone therapy. In the recent past, experts on LGBTQ-inclusion in medical school have said schools need to be better at addressing health topics that primarily concern LGBTQ patients in regular curricula rather than dedicating only a few hours or one day to cover them. The Medical Student Pride Alliance, which works on improving medical school coursework to be more inclusive and to encourage the recruitment of LGBTQ students for medical school, has been in place for two years now and includes 31 chapters. 

These signs of progress matter deeply for LGBTQ patients as well as medical students, according to Potter.

“LGBTQ+ people continue to experience a disproportionate burden of stigma, discrimination, interpersonal violence, and mistreatment, or even refusal of medical care. Because of this, it is often difficult for LGBTQ+ people to trust health care providers and to engage in needed care,” she said. “Providers who offer affirming and knowledgeable care are far less likely to retraumatize LGBTQ+ patients who have been previously hurt by the medical system, and much more likely to be able to form collaborative relationships with LGBTQ+ patients that will support healing and recovery, and promote health and well-being.”

The American Medical Association made sure that information about doctors’ sexual orientations and gender identities was collected for their demographic profiles in 2018. 

There are still opportunities for schools to improve, however. 

“The biggest areas that are lagging are opportunities for students to interact with LGBTQ+ patients regularly and faculty development [because] the teachers received little education in LGBTQ+ health, and sometimes students know more than the faculty,” Potter said.