Closing the LGBTQ Health Gap

Medical Students Changing Medicine

Haidn Foster, MA


March 29, 2019

As many as 10 million US adults and 5.6% of younger Americans identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). Virtually all healthcare providers will see LGBTQ patients throughout their career. Physicians, nurses, and other health professionals cannot afford to be uninformed when it comes to these patients' unique healthcare needs.

Sexual and gender minorities have poorer health outcomes compared with the general public. This is a consequence of factors that include discrimination, some risky or unhealthy practices, reticence to seek out care, and subpar medical screening and treatment. Members of the LGBTQ community may experience a higher prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes, increased risk for heart disease, and greater prevalence of substance use, STIs, and suicidal thoughts and actions. Such disparities require providers with training to appropriately treat and counsel these patients.

We know that student and provider LGBTQ medical knowledge and quality of care benefit from targeted instruction. Still, undergraduate and graduate medical education have a long way to go in adequately covering their patients' disparate health outcomes and special concerns when it comes to caring for the LGBTQ community. Although some exciting initiatives are moving the needle in LGBTQ-inclusive and LGBTQ-competent health education, medical students in the United States, United Kingdom, and beyond continue to report deficiencies in LGBTQ curricula that make it difficult to care for patients once students begin their clinical rotations.

Pride in Practice

I founded Pride in Practice to bridge the gap in LGBTQ medical training. By featuring provocative patient stories, provider insights, and best practices in sexual and gender minority healthcare, Pride in Practice makes the case for building an LGBTQ-knowledgeable practice and equips providers with the tools and education needed to change LGBTQ health outcomes for the better.

The site is designed to help address frequently encountered concerns. For example, the guide to gender pronouns helps those wondering how to refer to transgender and intersex patients, and how to take a sexual history describes how to obtain a history that is inclusive of bisexual identity to improve the health outcomes of bi-, poly-, and pansexual patients. We are constantly publishing new stories, best practices, and "101" articles and are always looking for new contributors and team members.

The initial response to Pride in Practice has been tremendous. Brian May, MD, chief resident of the Department of Internal Medicine at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said, "@prideinpractice [is] doing great work educating physicians about LGBTQ medical care." Stanford MD-PhD candidate Tim Keyes agreed: "The more I read from Pride in Practice, the more I realize how important it is to have accessible resources for #lgbtqhealth health. Every physician should know these basics!"

We are just getting started in our mission of helping health professionals learn how to care for their LGBTQ patients, and our whole team is excited and encouraged by this early reception. I invite you to join us as we build a one-stop resource for improving patient care and health outcomes for our LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors.

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