MDHS LGBTIQ+ Health: Interdisciplinary and Interprofessional Student Forum

About

This program aims to provide emerging health practitioners with foundational skills, knowledge and awareness of LGBTIQ+ health issues and disparities. The program is a one-day forum, co-designed by students from across MDHS in collaboration with key Faculty staff, delivered by LGBTIQ+ community partners and formally recognised through a completion certificate.

Scope

Teaching student health practitioners lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inclusion is complicated. Not least because the status of consistent reporting of health disparities among this population is fragmented across academic, government and community organisations (Haider et al. 2017). A 2017 survey of medical school curriculum administrators in Australia and New Zealand indicated most (60%) of medical schools dedicated 0-5 hours to LGBTIQ+ health in pre-clinical years. Most of this content focused on same-sex sexual activity (80%), with half of respondents (47%) being unsure whether trans and gender diverse was covered in their curricula (Adan Sanchez et al. 2017). What we do know is that globally, the health outcomes of LGBTIQ+ populations are poorer than that of heterosexual and/or cisgender populations (Zeeman 2019). At present, the University of Melbourne does not offer a subject or course with a focus on LGBTIQ+ health disparities.

Research into levels of confidence and comfortability of health care providers when working with LGBTIQ+ people suggests that very few feel equipped to incorporate gender and sexuality into their assessment and treatment (Beemyn & Rankin, 2016). Most health care providers are simply not asking patients about their experiences of gender and sexuality, or assuming heterosexuality and cisgender identities of their patients (Haider et al. 2017). Further, LGBTIQ+ tertiary students themselves are subject to disproportionate rates of marginalisation, discrimination and harassment than their heterosexual, gender conforming peers (Braun et al., 2017; Waling & Roffee, 2018). In higher education, many faculty, staff and students have minimal knowledge and understanding of LGBTIQ+ issues, particularly where transgender and gender diverse students are concerned (Beemyn & Rankin, 2016). Many universities do not offer institutional support in developing these competencies at all, leaving staff and student activism to compensate. As a result of a lack of research and enquiry, many within tertiary institutions tend to engage in exclusionary practices, often without any intent to do so.

Following an existing and evaluated model of delivery (Braun 2017), we see an interprofessional and interdisciplinary forum as an effective method for engaging students in LGBTIQ+ health care while embedding key objectives of MDHS learning and teaching strategies. Simple interventions such as the inclusion of one lecture and subsequent assessment on transgender health have been shown to decrease discomfort and increase skills for medical students engaging with transgender patients (Safer et al. 2013). We will draw on our existing relationships with community partners such as Transgender Victoria and Queerspace to fulfil a key learning objective: exposure to the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.  A one-day forum, co-designed with student health care professionals from across the Faculty and championed by key Faculty staff would provide a robust learning experience for students who might not otherwise have access to LGBTIQ+ community health partners. By offering this forum to any student health practitioner within the faculty, we aim to bring together knowledges to foster a common goal: reducing health inequity for LGBTIQ+ populations.

MDHS LGBTIQ+ Health program is led
by Dr Megan Sharp and Dr Asiel Adan Sanchez.
Please contact them for more information.

Dr Megan Sharp
Researcher, MDHS Diversity And Inclusion
Co-Chair (Staff), Pride in Action Network

megan.sharp@unimelb.edu.au

Dr Asiel Adan Sanchez
Academic, MDHS
GP Registrar, Northside Clinic
asielyair.adansanchez@unimelb.edu.au