Backed by research that suggests patients receive better care when treated by clinicians more like them, medical schools in the U.S. are pushing for better education on LGBTQ health issues and to recruit more LGBTQ students.
Advocates say that when doctors presume patients are heterosexual, those who identify otherwise may be less likely to seek medical care, leading to higher rates of depression, alcohol and drug use, suicidal behavior, and inadequate health screenings. To help avoid this, experts recommend implementing a mandatory LGBTQ curriculum and increasing LGBTQ enrollment in medical schools.
“LGBTQ physicians deserve an equal standing in the medical community and LGBTQ patients deserve the same quality of care awarded to anyone else ,” said Aliya Feroe, a third-year medical student at Harvard Medical School.
Since 2018, the American Medical Association (AMA) added sexual orientation and gender identity as options for members to include on demographic profiles. So far, 15,000 students and doctors have chosen to include this information, and about 4% identify as LGBTQ. Gallup estimates that this is similar to the overall U.S. population, although that number may be artificially lowered by those who have not come out. The Association of American Medical Colleges also began allowing applicants to specify gender identity and preferred pronouns in 2018.
Harvard Medical School’s application includes an option to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Applicants are not required to respond, but the option “sends a message that you’re wanted,” said Jessica Halem, the school’s LGBTQ outreach director. In fall 2019, the school’s entering class of medical students was 15 % LGBTQ, which can be attributed to this recent push.