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New Field in the MSAR: Support Systems for Gender and Sexual Minority Students

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When considering where to apply to medical school, there are many factors to consider. From a general perspective, what is the school’s mission? Where are they located? Do they accept out-of-state students? From an academic perspective, how large are the classes? What research opportunities are available? When do students begin patient interaction? Is the teaching style predominantly lecture-based? Are students ranked? 

Another area that is vital to your comfort and success in medical school are the campus resources and support systems in place for your development, which includes things like the medical school’s student organizations and programs. In the Campus Life section of the MSAR, you can find information about the general campus setting and get a better understanding of what student housing options, student organizations, and diversity programs are available.

This year, we added a new section to the Campus Life section called “Support Systems for Gender and Sexual Minority Students,” where you can find information about the LGBTQ+ student clubs and organizations at the school and what accommodations the university offers and prioritizes, such as campuswide gender-neutral bathrooms, health care expertise for gender and sexual minority students, universitywide safe zone training, and a community of student support groups. This information can also be found as a downloadable PDF on the MSAR advisor reports webpage

Here are a few examples of what medical schools have included:

  • Wake Forest School of Medicine 
    Through the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, the Medical Center is a participant in the American Hospital Association’s #123forEquity Campaign in which we pledge to take action to ensure that quality and equitable health care is delivered to all. In January 2017, the Medical Center was recognized as a Leader in LGBTQ Health Care Equality by the Human Rights Campaign. The Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity sponsors a student-led organization called Safe Zone in Medicine that helps individuals deepen their understanding of LGBTQ+ identities and health care-related issues. Through several dedicated training sessions and community activities, Safe Zone in Medicine builds confidence in caring for patients, mentoring students, and communicating with colleagues from the LGBTQ+ community. The school also supports student groups that offer gender and sexual minority-specific programs and activities including the Gay Straight Alliance and the Sexual Health Awareness Group. 

  • Harvard Medical School (HMS)
    Since 2011, the Office for Recruitment and Multicultural Affairs has been providing individual support, career guidance, and leadership development opportunities to LGBTQIA+ medical students as well as the the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, and queer student club, LAHMS. HMS was one of the first medical schools to allow students to self-identify on the secondary application, and our numbers of students in the first-year class have steadily grown to 15% self-identified as LGBTQIA+ in the Class of 2023. We have a full-time dedicated staff member who brings years of experience in LGBTQIA+ health and coaching. Recently, HMS received a grant to overhaul the curriculum to include sexual and gender minority health equity. This work is spearheaded by a team of faculty, fellows, students, and staff. There are also more than 300 LGBTQIA+ faculty and allies on the longstanding HMS “OutList” who are available for mentoring, research, and clinical care opportunities. HMS is proud to be a leader in ensuring our LGBTQIA+ students both succeed and thrive.

  • University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine 
    The support of our gender and sexual minority students starts in orientation week, which includes a session on our LGBTQ community. We offer guidance and fiscal support to our active LGBTQ student organization for well-attended, schoolwide events, such as a “Rainbow Pin Ceremony,” Transgender Week of Visibility, National Coming Out Day, and attendance at an annual Southern California LGBTQ conference. Our commitment to an inclusive community extends to our curriculum, which includes meaningful electives co-developed with students (an example of which is the “Intersections of LGBTQ Health Elective”), panel discussions by LGBTQ health providers, and a health equity thread in which all of our students learn about health inequities in sexual and gender minority communities.

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