SMHS educates students on LGBT care

Media Credit: Hatchet file photo by Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences is improving care for LGBT patients.

SMHS is one of the only schools to incorporate a transgender session in their curriculum and recently a committee was created to improve care for transgender patients. Professors in the medical school said GW is leading the industry in LGBT research and education in an effort to produce “culturally competent” doctors.

Chad Henson-Martins, an assistant professor of medicine, said recently a committee, called the transgender caucus, was created to discuss ways to improve care for transgender individuals. Henson-Martins is on a subcommittee that will make electronic medical records and intake forms transgender-friendly.

“We want to make sure that everybody feels comfortable coming to GW for their care and expanding our coverage for everybody,” Henson-Martins said. “We have a lot of passionate people here at GW who really care about making it a more comfortable place for everybody.”

Students encounter curriculum with an LGBT focus in introductory courses, and they receive formal education on interviewing LGBT patients later in their courses, he added.

“D.C. has a higher rate of LGBT people,” Henson-Martins said. “We stress the importance of being open with patients and getting to know them in their lives.”

Charles Samenow, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said in an email SMHS has now formalized the curriculum to include an introductory session on sexual health in students’ first weeks of medical school.

GW has been a leader in sexual health, as one of the few medical schools that has offered a sexual health curriculum for decades, Samenow said.

“We are one of the only schools that has a whole session dedicated to transgender health,” he said.

In students’ pre-clinical years, LGBT health is integrated into the clinical skills curriculum through case studies, standardized patients and physical examination lessons.

He said there are various sessions on LGBT health, including on sexually active youth with a focus on harm reduction education for a diverse group of adolescents and young adults, a reproductive endocrinology session on family planning for LGBT couples who want to have children and sessions on sex, aging and disability, which includes material related to LGBT patients.

“As a medical school that prides itself on the diversity of its student body and is centered in a major city with diverse patients, we see this type of education as critical for future doctors,” Samenow said.

Terry Kind, the assistant dean for clinical education, said in an email students are introduced to special issues related to LGBT health through group discussions, with a focus on normalizing relationships and understanding psychosocial, behavioral and medical challenges for LGBT patients.

Guest facilitators from the LGBT community share their experiences with the students, Kind added.

“Students also have robust clinical experiences throughout all clerkships, learning from and serving our diverse patient population in the greater metropolitan D.C. region,” she said.

Michael Irwig, an associate professor of medicine and the director of the Center for Andrology who has conducted research on transgender care, said more medical schools should include transgender patient care in their curricula, because transgender patients exist in all states and health care systems.

“There are many areas that need for research so that clinicians can provide better care to transgender populations,” Irwig said. “For example, the suicide rate is very high and needs to be addressed.”

Irwig published a study in April that outlined the desired and undesired effects of testosterone therapy for transgender men. He said he hopes his research will inspire other researchers to explore the field.

“More transgender patients are openly identifying themselves as trans within the health care system including GW Hospital,” Irwig said.

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