Leadership

New Guidelines for Medical Education Aim for Better LGBT Healthcare

By / Nov 20, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A first-of-its-kind document from the Association of American Medical Colleges lays out 30 core competencies that will be rolled into physician training. The goal: a culture change in how healthcare is provided to the LGBT community.

A landmark report from the Association of American Medical Colleges includes the first guidelines for training physicians to care for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, who are gender nonconforming, or who are born with differences of sex development. The report, released this week, establishes 30 core competencies that AAMC says physicians should be required to master.

Physicians and medical school faculty members are committed to treating all patients equally, yet research shows that everyone has unconscious biases that can affect how we interact with people from different experiences and backgrounds

“This groundbreaking publication represents a major step forward in giving medical schools, teaching hospitals, and health systems a roadmap for improving the care of LGBT and other individuals with differences in gender identity, gender expression, and sex development,” AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., said in a statement.

The guidelines will encourage family and healthcare professionals to move away from thinking of these patients differently from others, Kirch added.

“Physicians and medical school faculty members are committed to treating all patients equally, yet research shows that everyone has unconscious biases that can affect how we interact with people from different experiences and backgrounds,” he said. “This new resource will help train physicians to overcome these blind spots and deliver high-quality care to all patients.”

Discrimination in medical care remains a serious issue for the LGBT community. According to a 2010 Lambda Legal survey, 56 percent of lesbian, gay, or bisexual respondents and 70 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents experienced at least one or more forms of discrimination in healthcare, including being denied care they needed, healthcare professionals refusing to touch them or using excessive precautions prior to contact, and being blamed for their health status.

Altering the way healthcare practitioners are trained in these areas could ultimately result in a culture change within the profession, according to Alice Dreger, professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who contributed to the AAMC report.

“We believe that once doctors start to recognize that the spectrums we are talking about are all around them in their own institutions, a deeper respect for the concerns for these patients will emerge,” Dreger wrote ina recent Slate article. “Given how radically the culture around medicine is changing, with these educational reforms inside medical schools, perhaps as soon as 10 years from now we will see a new world.”

AAMC said the competency-based model will enable medical educators to work the guidelines into existing training materials seamlessly. The association is currently developing a workshop that will focus on integrating the material into current curricula. That program will be piloted at the University of Louisville School of Medicine next year.

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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