New doctors trained to overcome LGBT health care gap

Published: November 5, 2012

In four years of medical school, most students average only five hours of education on the health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients.

An estimated 3.4% of Americans identify themselves as LGBT, and many face health risks due largely to social stigma and a lack of understanding about their medical experiences and needs, said a 2011 Institute of Medicine report.

Overall, medical schools and residency programs are doing an unacceptable job of working to eliminate those disparities through education, said Patricia A. Robertson, MD. She is professor and Endowed Chair of Obstetric and Gynecologic Education in the Dept. of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine.

Research indicates that most medical schools are not doing enough to prepare future physicians to address the needs of LGBT patients, said Hector Vargas, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Assn.

More than two-thirds of osteopathic medical schools require education on LGBT health.

“To not teach about their health needs — there is just no excuse,” Dr. Robertson said.

But some schools and residency programs are trying to give physicians-in-training insight into LGBT patients and ensure these patients’ health needs are addressed and treated.

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