Failing Grade in LGBT Health

Future docs - and their patients - are out of luck at most major medical schools

Photo by Think Stock

Can a doctor learn everything he or she needs to know about LGBT health in just five hours? Because that’s how much time it’s estimated that many major medical schools in North America are devoting to these lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patient issues.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (AMA) recently published a staggering new report based on surveys of nearly 200 schools in the U.S. and Canada, noting that as many as one-third of the schools don’t even mention LGBT health issues at all in the classroom. HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention, mental health and sex-change surgery all seem to get failing grades when it comes to training future doctors in the treatment of patients within the LGBT community.

The AMA admits that while most students are trained in asking men if they have sex with men, women or both, the conversation usually stops there with little conversation about what comes next related to HIV and AIDS specifically. Lesbians are also out of luck, often denied essential gynecological tests that screen for cervical cancer and other diseases simply because doctors may not think they need them.

In reality, what should concern these medical schools is the rate of depression and suicide within the LGBT community, as well as the lack of preventative care that can lead to serious, potentially fatal diseases at all ages. Lesbians, for example, may be at higher risk for obesity and breast cancer, according to the report, but often don’t receive the same care as heterosexual women. And gay men also have unique needs, as do transgender patients who are likely using hormones.

If you have questions about your own health, vital information and resources are available. Click here for the The National Coalition for LGBT Health. And in Philly, click here for the Mazzoni Center.