The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has released guidelines – two years in the making – for training physicians on caring for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender nonconforming patients. “This document discusses how to integrate and assess 30 competencies for how students should be able to perform in a clinical setting,” says Kristen Eckstrand, a fourth-year medical student and editor of the guidelines. She adds:
Over the past 25, or 30 years, there’s been slowly increasing evidence about the health disparities that are faced by individuals who identify as LGBT, who are gender nonconforming, or who have been born with some kind of difference in sex development. There’s a fair amount of evidence saying that these individuals face discrimination and healthcare disparities when accessing and receiving care. There could be challenges with obtaining insurance, challenges being able to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity, being able to name their spouse as next of kin, having providers being aware of the health concerns of the community. All of these things cumulatively add up.
LGBT individuals, we know, face disparities in mental health care. They are much more likely to attempt and succeed at committing suicide, they’re more likely to have eating disorders, more likely to have certain kinds of cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. All of these things lead to increased morbidity and mortality in the LGBT community.
Medical education itself plays an incredibly important role in this, because if we can train our providers to meet the healthcare needs of the LGBT community, which makes up a good chunk of the American population, we can increase the health of 15 million Americans. That is a substantial number and not something that should be ignored.
For a quick sense of what issues the guidelines address, see health care reporter Martha Bebinger’s post on tips for treating transgender patients. It includes this brief interview with Dr. Joshua Safer of Boston University Medical School:
Dr. Safer says Boston University’s med school has the nation’s first transgender medicine curriculum focused on the biology of gender identity.
The post also links to Bebinger’s series on the challenges transgender teens face through the story of Nate, a 16-year-old transgender male.