The OUTPatient organization for LGBTQ students at the Pritzker School of Medicine recently attained chapter status with the Medical Student Pride Alliance (MSPA), giving the group a national voice and building on a productive year of efforts to increase awareness and inclusivity around LGBTQ issues.
The MSPA, formed in 2018, is a national organizing body founded by medical students from Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Louisville, and the University of Vermont. Among its aims are increasing collaboration among queer medical communities, promoting recruitment of queer students into medicine, and serving as “the voice for LGBTQ+ medical students in the national dialogue.” Its formation has led to a sprawling network of communities, much like the chapter model of other identity-based student organizations like the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) or the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA). So far, MSPA includes 81 chapters across 34 states and Puerto Rico.
OUTPatient became the second Chicago-area chapter of MSPA shortly after first-year student Samantha Morris suggested in January to her fellow board members they apply for chapter status.
“I saw that it could be a really amazing opportunity for, at a baseline, building connections and relationships with other queer medical students across the country,” Morris said. “It really seemed like a no-brainer just to expand our reach.”
Added fellow board member Tony Dagher: “It furthers all of our missions. Socially it gives us an even broader range of queer students to interact with, to talk to, to bounce ideas off of. And then from a curricular standpoint or educational standpoint it gives us additional people to talk to about ideas and see how things are being done in other places and see if we can bring that to Pritzker.”
Aligning with the MSPA allows OUTPatient to tap into resources for career exploration, mentorship, networking, and preparation for the residency application process. Already, OUTPatient has benefited from MSPA’s series of panels on the Match, and plans are in the works for connecting with other Chicago-area medical schools’ LGBTQ student organizations. Chapter status also gives OUTPatient a voice within MSPA’s collective action and advocacy efforts, which the group saw as a prominent benefit to becoming a chapter.
“One of our goals as a group this year has been to just expand the scope of the organization beyond just an identity or affinity group within the school,” board member Gary Wang said. “The social aspect and the community aspect will always be the foundation of the group, but we want to sort of take the next step as an organization and leverage the skills, energy, and experiences of OUTPatient members and MSPA members to engage in advocacy.”
OUTPatient’s effort to become more active in advocacy and inclusion within the Pritzker community have been challenged during the COVID-19 pandemic. The five-member board first convened to begin their work virtually via Zoom and has had few opportunities to meet in person but has not let the inability to gather hinder their work.
Morris this year led OUTPatient’s initiative to educate peers and faculty on more LGBTQ-inclusive sexual history taking. After covering sexual history taking in standardized patient sessions, she started developing a one-page guide focused on LGBTQ-inclusive language and questions. The group then sought feedback from peers and hosted a well-attended workshop on inclusive sexual history taking for first-year students that featured UChicago Medicine physicians.
“A big perk of that session was people just got the chance to debrief and ask questions they weren’t able to ask in lecture and just have a space to be confused about things that might not be familiar to them,” board member Julie Chael said.
Chael said she feels the support and engagement from peers speaks to Pritzker’s commitment to not only being a welcoming institution but also to fostering an environment where all members of the community agree on the importance of creating a more inclusive medical field.
OUTPatient has also been working with Pritzker faculty and staff to make the school’s curriculum more LGBTQ inclusive and developing a revamped fourth-year LGBTQ health rotation. Between the positive, engaged response from administration and the enthusiasm of peers, OUTPatient’s leaders say they have felt affirmed in their efforts.
“The student body here really does care about these issues,” board member Liam Spurr said. “And when the school and their peers provide them with resources to learn and be more prepared to work with LGBTQ patients and really all their patients in the most effective way possible they’re excited to take those opportunities.”
OUTPatient has also reached beyond the Pritzker community in the past year. The group recently partnered with SNMA on a hygienic products drive for Brave Space Alliance, a Black- and trans-led LGBTQ center on the south side of Chicago, and has begun coordinating volunteer opportunities for medical students at Howard Brown Health in Hyde Park. The board members also reached out to more than 40 LGBTQ-identified Pritzker applicants during the recent application season, an effort Morris said would not have been possible without previous OUTPatient leaders’ push to have a self-identification option added to the school’s secondary application.