Before entering the health professions, we were patients. We have all been a patient first. And as a medical student in my preclinical training, the memories of being the vulnerable party are more salient than the knowledge conveyed by my big white coat. So, in this space, I am looking for the training that will make patients like myself feel comforted and create an open environment.
One of the lenses I bring to this perspective is that I am queer. While learning about allergy and immunology, a memory resurfaces: the time I went to the allergist and lied that I had a reaction after kissing my “boyfriend,” not my girlfriend, because I was afraid of discrimination or being denied care. When learning about sexually transmitted infections, I wait to learn about risks for queer patients to contrast my memory of hearing “lesbians aren’t at risk.” And when talking about AIDS, I recall when a gay male friend had mono and one of the first questions asked was “how likely is it that you could have HIV?” so I listen for mention of any population besides gay men, but nope, it seems that they are the only ones who get this disease.
As a queer patient but also a medical student, I look at medical education for the moments that will make my generation better: instructing us on how to make patients of all genders and sexualities feel comfortable, teaching us correct information relevant to particular populations, and busting myths driven by a culture of systemic homophobia and transphobia.
My experience as a queer patient informs my expectations in medical education. And I had higher expectations. Instead, I was let down by practice questions that reinforce stereotypes, and complete lack of representation of certain groups. And medical education translates into the experience provided by health professionals, so, if I went with the flow, I would become just another doctor who doesn’t know the basics of queer health and, knowingly or unknowingly, provided inadequate care to a uniquely vulnerable population.
So I decided to change that. With the help of a peer and an advisor, I brought together resources to create a queer health curriculum—a “Queericulum.” We created a series of online modules consisting of primary resources and case-based scenarios to introduce to medical students the breadth of LGBTQI+ patient and family issues.
I introduce this to FemInEM as both a hopeful future emergency medicine doctor and as a patient. As a patient, I want to know that I will not experience discrimination, mistreatment, or refusal of care. As a patient, I want to feel confident that my caregivers know about my unique needs, rather than having to teach them myself. As a patient, I want to know that everyone in the emergency department knows how to deal with my health concerns while treating me as a human being. And as a medical student, I am working to that happen.
Watch the full FIX18 talk below!
This is fantastic, Shana, and so incredibly relevant and needed right now! Thank you for this work you’re doing. Your passion and vision is brilliant, and both the FemInEM and Queer communities are blessed to have you!