Medical Schools Teaching Little About Gay Health

A survey of medical school deans suggests future doctors aren't learning much about the unique health needs of gays and lesbians.

According to the deans, their schools devoted on average five hours in the entire curriculum to teaching content related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients.

More than a quarter of the medical school deans said their school's coverage of 16 related topics was "poor" or "very poor." The topics included sex change surgery, mental health issues and HIV-AIDS.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Juno Obedin-Maliver of the University of California, San Francisco, says that while nearly all medical schools taught students to ask patients if they "have sex with men, women or both" while obtaining a sexual history, the overall curriculum lacked deeper instruction to help "students carry that conversation as far as it needs to go."

Obedin-Maliver says without such education, doctors are left guessing and can make faulty assumptions,

The new findings, which appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on a Web-based survey that drew responses from 85 percent of U.S. and Canadian medical schools.

Dr. Gabriel Garcia of Stanford University Medical School, an author of this study, says other marginalized minority groups have specific issues that are not taught in med school, just as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients have different physical and psychological issues and disparities in access to health care.