Harvard Medical School has taken a multi-pronged approach to ensure its physicians-in-training are prepared for the unique needs of LGBTQ patients.
Seeing a Harvard Medical School diploma hanging in your doctor’s office may in itself be impressive, but now, for some LGBTQ patients, the degree may provide some additional comfort. With a new LGBTQ elective course, the incorporation of LGBTQ health needs into existing courses and an LGBTQ-specific scholarship, the school is taking a leadership role in the health care of gender and sexual minorities.
In January 2016, Harvard Medical School (HMS) launched its first elective course dedicated to LGBTQ health, providing fourth-year students the opportunity to learn about different facets of sexual- and gender-minority health from the populations
The multidisciplinary course, which addresses LGBTQ health disparities and unique health issues faced by the community, aims to prepare graduating physicians with the ability to provide high-quality patient care to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and gender-nonconforming, as well as those born with differences of sex development (DSD).
Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, an assistant professor of psychiatry at HMS and the director of education and training programs at The Fenway Institute’s National LGBT Health Education Center, said he customizes the elective course for each student, hoping to provide an “enriched experience toward the end of their medical school training, so that they can appreciate the fact that this is really a field in and of it itself.”
“LGBT health is a discipline many of us choose to devote our careers to,” Keuroghlian said. “This is a population facing a lot of what we call ‘minority stress,’ whether it’s sexual-minority stress or gender-minority stress, that leads to various behavioral health problems, poor self-care, decreased engagement in health care and a variety of physical health problems disproportionately compared to the general population.”
Students in this elective are able to choose a population focus, such as transgender youth or lesbian and bisexual women, and Keuroghlian creates a rotation specifically designed for them, so they can learn directly from care providers, like himself, who are already working in the field.
“When I have students with me in clinic, they’re seeing me do evaluations for gender-affirming surgical procedures to ensure that patients can have these procedures done,” Keuroghlian said. “I [also] write a letter to the surgeon and insurance company to make sure the patient can have this procedure. It’s a very specific kind of evaluation and a very specific letter I write that they would not be likely to experience or observe otherwise.”
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