Medical Schools and LGBT Topics


Medical schools are not exactly a hotbed of activity for sex education programs. Less than one third of medical schools in the United States offer any courses or training on the subject of human sexuality. The irony is patients report feeling their health care provider is the appropriate person to address sexuality issues as they feel the etiology is physical. At the same time health care providers are very lax at discussing sexuality issues because of embarrassment of lack of education about sexuality.

When it comes to teaching about the unique health care the needs of LGBT patients, medical schools are once again falling short. According to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 44 medical schools in the United States acknowledge they give no teaching time to LGBT related issues. Of those responding, 70% of medical school self reported their LGBT curriculum as fair, poor or very poor.

Many may think that it is not important to discuss LGBT related issues with soon to be health care providers. However, LGBT persons report they have experienced homophobia from their health care provider, which many times has led them to avoid seeking health care and regular check ups. Yet, many in the LGBT population are at higher risk for health problems. One example is the higher rate of undetected breast and reproductive organ cancer among lesbian women. For many women, their gynecologist is the only health care provider they see on a regular basis and this is usually because they need some form of birth control. Lesbians for the most part, do not need birth control and as such, do not always have their yearly mammogram, pap smear and breast exam. This contributes to the higher rates of undetected cancers and also the cancer being more advanced when it is detected.

According to the JAMA article, LGBT patients also have higher rates of depression, alcohol and drug use, suicidal thoughts, rates of youth homelessness, STD’s and HIV infections. They also encounter social stigmas such as no health insurance for domestic partners and laws not recognizing significant others as legal next of kin.

We live in a diverse world. LGBT persons are a part of that diversity. Medical schools should consider this population for inclusion in curriculum so their needs may be addressed.


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