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Good health requires a good relationship with health care providers.  Unfortunately for LGBT people, this report on medical education tells us what many of us already knew:  med schools fall short.  How short?

 In a survey of medical school deans in the U.S. and Canada, a group of researchers found that the median number of teaching hours dedicated to LGBT content during an a four-year medical education was just five hours. While the researchers said there was a lot of variation between schools, they noted that five hours as a median was “small.”

Five hours out of four years.  What does that mean for LGBT patients?

  • Be prepared to advocate for yourself.  Don’t assume that a doctor will necessarily be knowledgeable about what life is like for a gay, lesbian, bi or trans person.
  • When selecting a health care provider, be prepared to ask questions.  Does he or she have many gay or lesbian patients?  Are they comfortable talking about matters of sexual health?
  • Listen to questions they ask you.  Are they respectful and sensitive?  Do they make assumptions based on stereotypes or a certain level of discomfort about dealing with you?
  • What kind of relationship does the doc like to have with patients?
  • If you have a chronic medical condition – HIV, or chronic hepatitis, for instance – is the doc knowledgeable?  Does he or she participate in research or clinical trials?

LGBT folks are often more comfortable with LGBT health providers, assuming they will be more familiar with their potential concerns.  There is a logic to that.  As with choosing a counselor or psychotherapist, though, the reality is that it is the consumer’s responsibility to make certain he or she is treated with respect and that the health care professional is well-informed.  Remember:  you have a right to be treated with respect.  Period.