LGB T 101 for Med Students

The “LGB and T Gender, Sexuality and Knowledge Mobility” curriculum development project – carried out by Dr. Lori MacIntosh, from the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, and Dr. Lisa Loutzenheiser, from the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy – seeks to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions entry level med students might have about LGBT health.

The curriculum project is an online module made up of eight different units, ranging from basic knowledge about health and the LGBT population to more specialized areas of medicine such as aging or mental health and LGBT people. Each module unit contains an overview of the field, power point presentation with lecture notes, and list of potential readings relevant to each of the areas.

The overall aim of this online repository is, according to Dr. Lori MacIntosh, to foster knowledge about the specific health concerns and realities affecting the LGBT population, and to do so with an eye attuned to the sociopolitical, cultural, and economic intersections shaping health and healthcare more broadly, including, among others, indigeneity, citizenship and immigration status, and income and housing security.

On a more concrete level, the main goal of this course is to help bridge any existing gaps between healthcare providers’ prevailing understandings of LGBT issues and LGBT people’s effective access to services and treatment. Should lesbian women – to provide an example – be screened for Human Papillomavirus (HPV)? Does identifying as lesbian makes a person necessarily less susceptible to HPV? Erroneously assuming that lesbian women never have had, nor will ever have, sexual relationships with men would misdirect frontline healthcare providers. Or, are transmen not susceptible to develop cervical or breast cancer at some point in their lives? Overlooking the varied embodied experiences of transpeople would wrongly lead a healthcare practitioner to answer such question negatively. These are the kind of knowledge gaps this online module is designed to pay particular attention to.

The major contribution of this course is – in Dr. Lori MacIntosh’s own words – helping “to debunk a lot of stereotypes around LGBT health.” One significant assumption this online module seeks to dismantle is that the LGBT community is entirely homogeneous, and therefore, that its members can and should receive health-related services as if they were blank slates.

Flexibility is the defining strength of this curriculum development project because it was designed to be either a self-taught online module or to be picked up by an instructor as a part of a larger course. It is in that sense an adjustable curriculum that requires familiarity rather than expertise in the subject matter to be delivered. It is already up and running, so the hope is that faculty and students in Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, or even Public Health programs will begin benefiting from this online course content in 2017.