Going to the doctor can be stressful for many people, but there is another degree of stress that many lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ+) people deal with due to their gender and sexuality. In a poll done by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 1 in 5 LGBT adults avoid medical care due to fearing discrimination from medical providers. In a study conducted by Healthy People 2020, transgender people face more issues like increased risk for mental illnesses, HIV, unemployment, poverty, and harassment. LGBT+ populations have unique issues such as transgender people having gender dysphoria. According to several studies, medical schools don’t effectively prepare future doctors to help LGBTQ+ patients due to the lack of education about these populations. In a 2017 survey of students at Boston University School of Medicine, the students’ knowledge of intersex and transgender students was less than their knowledge of LGB individuals.
The amount of LGBT+ education is different among many medical schools, but a 2011 study mentioned that the median time of LGBT+ education was approximately 5 hours. The education covered topics like sexual orientation, safe sex, and gender identity and often ignored transgender-specific issues like transitioning. Some medical schools didn’t provide any LGBT+ education at all in preparing their students for when their patients are LGBT+. Consequently, many medical professionals don’t feel as trained to care for LGBT+ patients due to the lack of LGBT+ content; LGBT+ education is often extra elective classes and not part of the general courses all medical students were required to take.
One major reason why there is not much LGBT+ education is due to the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1980s to 1990s as well as the general homophobia and transphobia that society has towards LGBT+ people. The mistreatment and treatment of the community back then have led to the limited education of LGBT+ people in medical communities as a result. LGBT+ health is often presented as AIDS/HIV topics in medical schools, not mentioning other queer health topics that are just as relevant and necessary to learn about.
Some ways professors and medical schools could add in more LGBT+ education could include professors mentioning trans people in health topics. For instance, when reviewing puberty, a professor can mention that gender dysphoria exists for many trans people, and some ways of reducing it can include puberty blockers, socially transitioning, etc.; this can inform students of trans people and how these issues affect trans people. Additionally, including methods of safe sex for same-sex couples is another way that medical schools can give medical students some knowledge on LGBT+ collectively.
Having more curricula about how to address and talk to LGBT+ people such as respecting their pronouns and gender identity would make it easier for both medical professionals and LGBT+ patients. This would be helpful for both pre-med students and students in medical school as learning about the needs of different patients would help them become better physicians and provide the care LGBT+ patients need. Having more LGBT+ education for medical students will help reduce some of the anxiety LGBT+ patients face when going to the doctor and ensure that physicians don't feel any discomfort either.
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