Students lead effort to improve health care for LGBT patients

By Alex Branch

Health profession students from across the state will convene at UNT Health Science Health WebCenter to discover more effective ways to meet the health care needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients.

The UNTHSC student organization Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Ally Alliance organized the Out for Health Conference Feb. 1-2 in the Medical Education and Training Building.

The conference is held annually at different Health Science Centers around the state.

“The LGBT community has gained a great deal of acceptance in recent years but health care is an area where more progress is needed,” said Matthew Mitts, a conference organizer and second-year student in the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.

While some LGBT patients encounter deliberate discrimination in health care settings, the majority of challenges they face are likely fueled by a more benign lack of awareness by providers, Mitts said.

Studies show that many providers don’t ask patients about their sexual orientation because it is a sensitive issue and they don’t want patients to feel singled out, he said. However, studies also show the majority of LGBT patients don’t mind discussing their sexual orientation with providers.

“In fact, sexual orientation can be important to their health care,” Mitts said. “We hope to promote ways for health care providers and their patients to discuss sexual orientation in a manner in which both are comfortable.”

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The conference will begin with a social event Feb. 1 and include city leaders active on LGBT issues. The following day will feature 14 speakers divided into two tracts — one focused on adolescents and adults; the other on pediatrics and geriatrics.

Already more than 150 people have registered. UNTHSC student organizers partnered with INCEDO, the university’s accredited office of continuing education, to offer continuing education credits to professional health care providers who attend.

For more information, visit the registration site. You also can support the conference by purchasing a T-shirt.

The conference organizing committee includes TCOM students Marcus Villarreal, Ava Moorhead, Michael Petrus-Jones, Katelyn Tate and Anusha Hussain.

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