by Stephanie Bi, MS2
On Friday, May 18, 2018, the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine hosted its second annual LGBTQ+ People in Medicine Forum. This forum brought together over 35 students, staff, and faculty who identify as part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community from several Chicagoland medical schools, and focused on building community, identifying mentorship opportunities, and beginning a conversation about LGBTQ+ experiences throughout medical education.
The forum was the culmination of an entire afternoon of activities featuring Dr. John Paul Sánchez as a workshop facilitator and keynote lecturer. Dr. Sánchez is the Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion and an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS). He is a leader in LGBTQ+ health research and has devoted his career to improving diversity and inclusion in medicine at all levels.
The evening forum began with Dr. Sánchez sharing a bit about his own personal trajectory navigating his early life and medical training as a gay-identified, Puerto Rican-American man in the Bronx. Dr. Sánchez emphasized the importance of mentorship, describing how his life changed when he met a physician who shared some of his identities. Prior to the forum, LGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty were surveyed about successes and challenges surrounding institutional LGBTQ+ climate. Dr. Sánchez summarized the results: most programming is student-driven and there has been a relative increase in visibility, but some have experienced mixed messaging regarding being “out” on the wards and some regard curriculum as being inconsistent with clinical practice, e.g. asking patients about their pronouns. A notable point Dr. Sánchez shared was that the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) Matriculating Student Questionnaire (MSQ) queries LGBTQ+ status and corresponding quality-of life-measures. That UChicago, like several other institutions, does not collect data in admissions processes about LGBTQ+ identity, puts it behind the curve, Dr. Sánchez expressed.
Cristina Gonzalez, an MS2 at the University of Illinois College of Medicine reflected, “Aside from meeting a variety of medical school and faculty contacts, the event was preceded by a tremendously informative presentation about how best to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community in academic medicine. I can only recommend the event and I hope they repeat it!”
Earlier in the day, Dr. Sánchez led a lunch session with UChicago faculty members, residency directors, and administrators who are invested in making both Pritzker and UChicago Medicine a more inclusive space for LGBTQ+ learners, as well as helping LGBTQ+ medical school and residency applicants navigate the process. Dr. Sánchez shared some important best practices he has implemented at NJMS and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, such as: Safe Zones allies training for students, faculty, and staff; publicizing an “OUT List” to increase visibility of LGBTQ+ senior administrators; and including seven hours of training in the first year of medical school including a small group discussion, reflection essays, and patient panel.
Sara Roser-Jones, Assistant Director of Admissions, commented about the lunch session, “I am glad to see that these tough conversations are happening between individuals who have an impact on all levels of a student’s medical education, from undergraduate advising and mentorship, admissions, clerkships, residency, and beyond.”
In the spirit of mentorship Dr. Sánchez highlighted, OUTpatient was able to update and expand its “OUT List” following the forum. During the forum, the notion of creating a national LGBTQ+ student organization was brought up, and OUTpatient members are presently involved in building this coalition.
The second iteration of this event created space for LGBTQ+ members at all levels in the medical community from across the Chicago area to coalesce and reflect. It was also an opportunity for administrators and senior leaders to gain insight into how to structurally improve environments for LGBTQ+-identified learners from someone with tremendous experience doing just that. The organizers’ hope is that this forum clarified what work remains to be done and inspired attendees to do that work in years to come.
This event was organized by co-leaders of OUTpatient, Stephanie Bi (MS2) and Christopher Awounou (MS2) with help from OUTPatient board members Ryan Judd (MS2), Nicholas Antos (MS2), and Hannah Caldwell (MS2), along with Monica Vela, MD’93 and Walter Parrish from the Office of Multicultural Affairs.