About a decade ago, Mitchell Lunn, MD, noticed he was receiving little instruction on providing care to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community while a student at Stanford University School of Medicine, even though these patients faced documented disparities in disease burden and access to care. So, he did something about it.
In 2007, Lunn and fellow students approached Stanford faculty about adding more LGBT care topics to the curriculum. In response, faculty asked them to research what other medical schools were doing. Lunn and his classmates began searching, but the literature was slim. So they designed their own study, surveying medical education deans in the United States and Canada.
The results, published in 2011 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found a median of five hours devoted to LGBT care in the medical school curriculum. More than one-third of survey respondents reported zero hours on LGBT care during students’ clinical education.
“I’m gay myself, and I don’t know a single LBGT person who hasn’t had to educate their doctor about their needs,” said Lunn, now an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine and cofounder of Stanford’s LGBT Medical Education Research Group.
Over the last few years, however, medical schools have started to make an earnest effort to incorporate LGBT patient care into their curricula and to help close LGBT health disparities.
“This is patient-centered care,” said Lunn, “but it requires a lot of practice and skill to make sure you’re opening up the doors for those sensitive conversations.”