LGBT Patients Search for Healing
A recent article published in The Boston Globe discussed some of the health challenges faced by LGBT patients and the efforts of health care providers in the Boston area to offer more culturally competent care to them.
According to the article, a number of patients who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender have enormous difficulties finding care that addresses their needs and does not alienate them because of their sexual orientation. The article notes there are major gaps in medical care and patient sensitivity that are not being addressed by either medical research or medical school education. According to the article, only .21 percent of publications relating to humans in the PubMed database include LGBT-related keywords. Furthermore, one study found that a third of medical schools offer no instruction on LGBT-related content during student’s clinical years. According to Dr. Scott Leibowitz, a psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital Boston, “You can’t learn this stuff through books or a written exam. The only way to foment sexual-and gender-competent care would be to have treatment programs that exist that bring in the patients.”
Medical facilities like Fenway Health are trying to do just that, by establishing programs and an atmosphere that help bring more LGBT patients through the door. For example, many of the doctors cited in the article say the first step to making a member of the LGBT community feel comfortable begin with the questions a doctor asks. “How do you like to be called,” or “Have you noticed any attraction to boys or girls or both,” are examples of some questions used by Dr. Carole Allen of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, to help put her patients at ease. Other efforts include visual cues in the lobby for support groups for HIV-positive people and requests for LGBT study participants. The efforts appear to be paying off. Jessica, a patient at Fenway, noted that it is vastly different walking into Fenway as compared with other health settings, and this helps to make her feel comfortable receiving care there (Rudick, 10/10).
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation Newsletter October 2011