Professional Development and Education
Everyone wants their doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers to be familiar with the health issues and risks specific to their own communities, and to provide them with appropriate and sensitive care. But for many people who are LGBT, it is difficult to find healthcare providers who can do just this. Sometimes bias or a judgmental attitude on the part of a clinician will damage the relationship between the clinician and an LGBT patient and negatively affect the patients’ health. But often it is simply that the clinician lacks the necessary knowledge and training in LGB or T health that would lead to a great healthcare experience rather than just a mediocre one. Further educational programming is needed to bolster physicians and other healthcare providers’ understanding of the many factors that contribute to disparities in LGBT health.
For the most part, however, medical schools and continuing medical education programs have not prioritized the teaching of LGB and T health. In a 1998 survey of departments of family medicine within US medical schools (n=95), 50% of schools reported spending zero hours teaching about homosexuality and bisexuality. According to a 1999 survey of 141 North American medical schools, the majority of undergraduate medical programs provide fewer than 10 hours of education on human sexuality in general; over half did not offer any continuing education courses on the subject. Transgender health was not covered in these surveys. There are a few organizations that are in the process of repeating these surveys (with additions and improvements) to get a more current picture of how well medical schools are doing to train their students in LGBT issues and health; but, from what recent medical graduates report, the overall sense is that there is still a huge gap in training.
Over the last few years, The Fenway Institute's Professional Development and Education department has received strong interest from academic hospitals all over the country to help them provide their residents, students, and faculty with at least a baseline introduction to caring for LGBT patients in an effective and sensitive manner. In response, we created a pilot program in conjunction with the American Medical Association to present Grand Rounds on LGBT health to hospitals at several locations around the nation. Grand rounds provides an excellent opportunity to educate physicians through live interaction with an expert in the field in a group setting and is an excellent vehicle to reach a large number of physicians, students, and other clinicians such as nurses and social workers. Hospitals are standard providers of grand rounds and clinicians rely on these for education on changes in clinical practice. The grand rounds are typically an hour in length and provide a general overview of LGBT demographics, terminology and concepts, as well as practice tips in taking a history, providing a welcoming environment, communicating well with patients, and creating more accepting work and learning environments.
So far, we have completed two grand rounds to over 100 physicians and residents: one locally at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and one at Loyola University in Illinois. Participants of the sessions gave very positive reviews, and were thankful for a presentation that “brings awareness to important issues and helps us understand the perspectives of this population,” and that had a “great speaker and encouraged open discussion." Future sites for the grand rounds include Lewiston, ME, Louisville, KY, Los Angeles, CA, Atlanta, GA, Camden, NJ and Cleveland, OH. This pilot program, which has been funded by Aetna and Gilead, will hopefully be expanded to include many more locations, particularly smaller cities that may be lacking in healthcare and social support resources for LGBT people.
We are always happy to hear your feedback and suggestions for our programs. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.