The LGBTQ Health Interest Group, a forum for McMaster medical students, hosted its first conference on Saturday, Nov. 2.
“Guiding Practice: Current Issues in Gender, Sexuality and Health” aimed to educate and raise awareness about barriers and issues in health care experienced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer viagra canada patients.
The conference was one of the first of its kind hosted by medical school students, and it garnered the interest of well-known professionals and the greater McMaster and LGBTQ+ communities in Hamilton.
“There’s a limited amount of LGBTQ+ oriented training in medical school within the curriculum,” said Melissa Bota, one of the organizers and a second-year medical student.
On average, a medical school student gets less than 5 hours of training surrounding these issues, and 54.4% of Canadian medical schools provide no training at all.
“There seems to be a disparity in the general knowledge around terminology and appropriate interactions with colleagues and patients,” said Sarah Macisaac, another organizer.
“We thought that this was something that could generate a conversation about what you need to know when not only providing patient care, but also interacting with colleagues who may be out but may not be out.”
The conference had an impressive line-up of speakers and workshop hosts, among them Dr. Anne Reid, former Canadian Medical Association president, and El-Farouk Khaki, a renowned immigrant and refugee rights lawyer in Toronto.
The first keynote was Dr. Reid’s “Out of the Closet and Into the Box,” which outlined how labels put on LGBTQ+ patients become harmful during health care provision.
Her presentation was followed by a series of two hour-long workshops covering topics such as Queer Parenting, Issues in Transgender Health, HIV counselling and others.
Overall, they received great feedback and suggestions from the participants, and the organizers felt that the conference was a success.
“We’ve had a couple of contacts already who want to mirror our conference because of paucity of LGBTQ+ focused material in the curriculum, and recognizing that no physician through the extent of their career will have only heterosexual patients,” said MacIsaac.
“This is something that everyone has to have competency in to provide great care.”
McMaster University has been taking efforts to improve diversity in their medical school through inclusivity and encouraging interactions with LGBTQ+ patients and colleagues.
“For a lot of people, it’s not willful ignorance, but discomfort or unfamiliarity so to have that platform for familiarity is really important,” explained Macissac.
The Medical school recently appointed Dr. Veltman, a presenter at the conference, as the Diversity & Engagement Chair, whom Macisaac recognized as a “a great liaison between us and the administration.”
“Often times the real gaps just come from the generational gap,” added Bota, “they think they’re doing a great job based on what was a diversity issue when they came through, and McMaster does a good job at being open when it comes to us lobbying new interests.”
Bota, MacIsaac and Khanna are confident that the LGBTQ+ Health Interest Group along with Dr. Veltman will continue to host the conference in the future. With issues like “gender dysphoria” still being considered a psychiatric illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, advocates of LGBTQ+ health still have a long way to go.
“The people on the DSM committees now are 50-60 years old,” said Summeets Khanna on the importance of educating new medical doctors on these issues.
“We’re not included in the conversations now, but one day we will be the ones sitting on the boards.”