The need to make more LGBTQ-focused doctors
To address the LGBTQ community’s concerns about facing doctors with their health-related issues, there’s a push for more LGBTQ-focused doctors to advance quality LGBTQ health care.
Training for LGBTQ-focused doctors
Back in 2011, a survey that interviewed 132 North American medical school deans noted that only five hours of medical school training cover LGBTQ-health issues.
Physician and neurologist Joshua Cohen, MD, MPH said that “there are now some medical school modules” that focus on LGBT health care.
But he added that there’s only a handful of medical schools in North America that give multiple classes and training, or even research opportunities in LGBT-focused health-care. .
To address this, he provided startup funding to support an American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation-sponsored LGBT Fellowship Program that would train doctors focused on LGBTQ health care.
The post-residency fellowship will give $750,000 over a three-year period to MD- and DO-granting educational institutions that are open to creating LGBTQ-focused curricula that would support the training during that period.
“Our goal is to pilot the fellowship at a number of institutions,” said Dr. Cohen, reiterating the training isn’t limited to the members of the LGBTQ community.
He explained that he decided to invest in a fellowship program via the AMA Foundation because it has “the capacity to bring together physicians and communities” to help improve the nation’s health.
The foundation will make its first LGBT Fellowship Program grant to a medical school by 2019.
LGBTQ-focused doctors & education
The AMA LGBT Fellowship is “a timely and necessary component to medical education,” said AMA Board of Trustees member Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH and co-author of a clinical guide on LGBT health care.
Dr. Ehrenfield added that the training should help all physicians, “irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity, because nearly all doctors will treat LGBT patients during their careers.”
As Dr. Daniel Summers, writing for Slate, warned: “If medical schools never teach students how and why to ask patients about sexual and gender identity, those questions will always seem foreign and foreboding.”
“The consequences of failing to ask, and not knowing what to do with that information once gathered, have the potential to be catastrophic,” Dr. Summer said.
Fortunately, there has been some progress.
“Over the past decade, schools have absolutely become more receptive to the need for improved LGBTQ health education,” Dr. Kristen L. Eckstrand, a psychiatry resident at the University of Pittsburgh, said.
“This [increased interest] is due do many factors, including students’ desire to take on scholarly projects towards understanding [other] students’ knowledge and attitudes regarding LGBTQ health, recognition of the importance of this topic by curriculum faculty and administrators, and release of recommendations by national regulatory bodies supporting improvement in medical training on LGBTQ health,” Dr. Eckstrand explained.
Including LGBTQ-sensitive health centres
The importance of having health frontliners who are more sensitive to the needs of the LGBT community can’t be understated as well.
Dr. Jesse Joad, president-elect of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, an organization of health professionals pushing for LGBT equality, said this should apply all the way to the front desk of the hospital or the clinic.
“When somebody has a spouse and the spouse is the same sex, that should be a seamless part of the intake that they’re doing. Calling people by their chosen name, calling them by their chosen pronoun,” Dr. Joad said in 2015.
“They’re not going to see the health care system because of how they may be treated,” he added.