PSOM Students, Alums Speak Out in Academic Medicine

Pritzker School of Medicine students and recent alumni made their presence felt in the latest edition of Academic Medicine, landing three publications in the Trainee-Authored Letters to the Editor section.

In the August 2022 issue of the leading journal, third-year students Gary Wang, Tony Dagher, and Julie Chael penned a letter titled “Moving From Words to Action: Leveraging Trainee Voices to Improve LGBTQ+ Equity and Inclusion,” highlighting the work they have done to make clinical and educational settings more inclusive for LGBTQ+ patients. Fellow third-year students Naomi Tesema and Cathy Luo, along with UChicago Medicine infectious disease fellow Maggie Collison, authored a letter titled “Using Medical Students as Champions Against Misinformation During a Global Pandemic” sharing their work battling COVID-19 misinformation.

Third-year student Kristen Chalmers teamed with recent alumni Nicole Dussault (’21, now an internal medicine resident at Duke University Medical Center) and Ramya Parameswaran (’21, now an internal medicine resident at University of California San Francisco) on the letter “Encouraging Trauma-Informed Care of Sexual Assault Survivors.”

Chalmers, Dussault, and Parameswaran all have previous experience counseling and/or advocating for survivors of sexual assault, including in hospital emergency departments. Their letter discussed the lack of confidence many medical trainees and clinicians feel about providing trauma-informed care to sexual assault survivors in the emergency department. The trio worked with UChicago Medicine faculty and sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) to develop a sexual assault patient care curriculum that led to increases in confidence among emergency department residents providing trauma-informed care.

“While we recognize that the sequelae of sexual assault occur beyond the walls of the emergency department, we are optimistic about the positive impact on survivors of being met in emergency departments by clinicians who are equipped to set them on a path toward healing,” the letter said.

Tesema, Luo, and Collison’s letter put a spotlight on COVID-19 misinformation that hindered vaccination rates at the height of the pandemic. The group worked as part of a team of biomedical librarians, attendings, residents, fellows, and medical students to create infographics aimed at dispelling misinformation and educating members of the community about how COVID-19 vaccines are made and why they are safe. The effort contributed to the development of a first-year Pritzker course on scientific communication and misinformation.

“We hope that scientific communication becomes an explicit component of medical education, equipping trainees to reach broad populations, build trust with underserved communities, and combat misinformation to empower patients,” the authors wrote.

Wang, Dagher, and Chael wrote their letter to share work they have done as leaders of OUTPatient, Pritzker’s LGBTQ+ student group that last year became a chapter of the national organization Medical Student Pride Alliance. The letter noted that LGTBQ+ health topics are still not commonplace in medical school curriculum and that LGBTQ+ populations still report avoidance of healthcare due to negative experiences and discrimination. LGBTQ+ medical trainees, the letter argues, are uniquely position to address these issues and improve LGBTQ+ care by providing “fresh perspectives informed by an evolving understanding of sexual and gender identity.” The group’s efforts at the University of Chicago have included distributing rainbow pins and personal pronoun badges, updating hospital signage to be more inclusive, and identifying opportunities to integrate LGBTQ+ health concepts into the medical school curriculum, including inclusive sexual history taking.

“Providing an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ patients requires that institutions move from theoretical policies to concrete actions,” the letter said. “Trainees can play a crucial role in this process, leveraging both their own experiences and the expertise of national networks (e.g., the Medical Student Pride Alliance).

“We encourage all trainees, whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or as allies, to use their voices to improve the health and well-being of all LGBTQ+ individuals.”