HSC team receives national award for work addressing sexual and gender minority healthcare needs

By Sally Crocker 

Pride Flag

More than 16 million people in the U.S. identify as sexual and gender minorities (SGM). The healthcare needs of these populations are different, especially in terms of reproductive health.

Visiting a health provider or accessing services has never been a one-size-fits-all experience. A lot depends on how included, respected and comfortable a patient feels.

The SGM communithas often been overlooked when it comes to Maternal and Child Health (MCH) care, prompting a team from the HSC School of Public Health to want to make a difference in this area. 

Dr.Erica C. Spears
Dr. Erica C. Spears
Dr. Stacey Griner
Dr. Stacey Griner

Through an Innovative Teaching Award from the Association of Teachers of Maternal and Child Health (ATMCH), HSC Assistant Professors Stacey Griner, PhD, MPH, and Erica C. Spears, PhD, MA, have developed MCH graduate course materials for Advancing Cultural Competence toward Sexual and Gender Minorities that are now available nationally as a resource to educators. HSC graduate Smriti Maskey (SPH ’20) assisted in the project.

HSC’s MPH concentration in Maternal and Child Health prepares professionals from a variety of backgrounds for leadership roles in organizations focused on promoting the health of women, children and families. 

“We had MPH students in mind as we developed this lecture and activities,” Dr. Griner said. 

“A lot of research has been conducted on cultural competence and its important role in delivering health services and programs, but many people — educators and providers included — are uncomfortable or unsure about ways of addressing sexual orientation, gender identity, and the reproductive and maternal and child health needs of the SGM community.” 

Cultural competence has to do with relationships, communication and respect for the diverse lives and backgrounds of othersStudies have shown that tailoring healthcare and public health services through cultural competence can go a long way in reducing health disparities and improving patient outcomes. 

“We’ve all heard of the golden rule,” Dr. Griner said“Through cultural competence, the focus shifts to the platinum rule of treating people how they want to be treated. 

Health disparities among African American, Hispanic and other marginalized populations have been exacerbated in 2020 by the effects of the COVID pandemic and widening cultural dividesFor SGM members of these already-at-risk populations who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendernon-binary, queer or questioning, the public health challenges are even greater. 

It’s marginalization inside marginalization; many of the health disparity experiences of race, culture, sexual orientation and gender identitintersect among these groups,” said Dr. Spears, a public health researcher dedicated to finding solutions for communities of color. 

“There has been a lack of community acceptance because people don’t fit the boxes. People want to be respected and treated as their full selves, but that’s not widely happening yet. Even the registration forms for visiting a provider or accessing healthcare services can be discouraging if the pronoun choices don’t fit appropriately for the individual.” 

In any population, there are different segments with different needs. 

In terms of the current social justice issues facing our worldthere are many different hashtags,” Dr. Spears said. “For African Americans, that might mean Black Lives MatterBlack Trans Lives Matter, Black Women Matter and others, each a different community with its own stories, its own need to be recognized.” 

I would like to think we would have been doing this anyway in public health and healthcaretreating people as they wish and need to be treated, but we’re not there yet,” she said. 

As a School of Public Health student involved in helping to develop and test the course lecture and materials, Maskey said she sees SGM cultural competence as especially important for professionals interacting with patients and community populations.

“Many people may be afraid to disclose their orientation for fear of bias or not receiving the services they need,” she said. “For students and future maternal and child health leaders, it’s critical to put cultural sensitivities into practice, to hopefully improve systems for the future and better meet people where they are in their own lives.” 

The course lecture is already in use at HSC and can be downloaded by any educator through the ATMCH website

Cultural competency isn’t something new – it’s been important for a very long time,” Maskey said. 

“We all want and need a meaningful experience with our provider and when navigating health-related services, to be met honestly and openly as who we are. That’s the heart of respect and communication in any setting, and especially in healthcare and public health.”

Recent News

Screenshot 2024 06 20 At 3.45.01 pm
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

From sacrifice to success: a journey through physical therapy school

Ancelmo Mojarro came to Fort Worth to study. The Tyler native knew he wanted to be a physical therapist early on his undergraduate days. He embarked on his path to physical therapy a decade ago, inspired by a friend's suggestion amidst his quest to find his calling in the medical field. “I starte...
Garciarosanski
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

HSC pro bono physical therapy program offers hope

For 70-year-old Beverly Rozanski, the journey to improved health has been long and challenging. Raised in Michigan, Rozanski spent her childhood and early adult years struggling with physical challenges that made even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. However, her discovery of a pro bono p...
Mills John
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

Team of experts from HSC and TCOM develop a national position statement for NCCHC on care for aging patients in correctional facilities

Addressing an overlooked and sometimes neglected patient population, a group of experts from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth partnered with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to write a “Care for Aging Patients in the Correctional Setting” posit...
Jennifer Fix 2 Purple
  • Education
|Jun 18, 2024

Pharmacy technician shortage driving force behind new, online prep course

A self-paced, online Pharmacy Technician Preparation Course is now being offered through The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth as a way to help combat the shortage of pharmacy technicians at hospitals, health systems and retail pharmacies. Recognized by the Pharmacy Tech...