Penn Medicine launches program to improve health of LGBT individuals

Published on February 9, 2014 at 12:59 PM · No Comments

Penn Medicine is the first academic medical center in Philadelphia - one among just a handful of academic medical centers in the U.S.—to launch a program across multiple professional schools and affiliated hospitals at Penn to improve the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Health disparities and inequalities within this community have become increasingly recognized, but are rarely addressed in today's health care settings.

The Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health is focusing on five key areas to help address these gaps:

•Climate -Nurture and support LGBT diversity and inclusion in the workplace, classroom, and healthcare settings
•Education—Enhance education of faculty, students, and staff in LGBT health and health disparities
•Research—Foster research on the optimal ways to improve the care for LGBT patients and their families
•Patient Care—Provide patient and family-centered care to the LGBT community.
•Outreach—Increase collaboration between Penn, affiliated health systems, and the Philadelphia LGBT community

"This program is unique to the region because of its comprehensive and interdisciplinary nature, touching on parts of the Penn family that are pivotal to moving the needle in LGBT health care—taking patient care, research, and education to the next level," said Baligh Yehia, MD, MPP, MSHP, director of the program and assistant professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine. "Our vision is to improve the care of LGBT individuals in our communities by becoming a local and national leader in LGBT health."

The program is being rolled out in the Perelman School of Medicine, Penn School of Nursing, Penn School of Dental Medicine, Penn's Center for Public Health Initiatives, and hospitals and facilities of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Leading federal institutions and national organizations have recognized that many members of the LGBT community face barriers to high-quality, patient-centered care, including decreased access to health care, lack of awareness and insensitivity to their unique health needs, and inequitable health system policies and practices. These barriers contribute to the multiple health disparities experienced by LGBT individuals.

For instance, compared to their heterosexual counterparts, LGBT populations have higher rates of HIV, certain forms of cancer, depression, suicide, and tobacco use. LGBT adults are also more likely to delay or avoid seeking medical care due to decreased access and fear of discrimination.

Research is also scant—a recent study found that only one half of 1 percent of National Institutes of Health-funded studies between 1989 and 2011 focused on LGBT health—and though it's improving, education is minimal in today's medical schools. Students receive, on average, less than 5 hours of LGBT health training, according to a survey of 150 deans of medical education.

The new program at Penn is broad by design and ranges from improving patients' healthcare experiences by implementing new policies and trainings to fostering collaborations among faculty investigating LGBT health issues to improved outreach to better serve the needs of the community.

"By harnessing the stellar resources within the Penn family, this program has the opportunity to better serve LGBT populations in Philadelphia and beyond with these areas of focus," said Dr. Yehia, whose own research and expertise centers on HIV/AIDS, LGBT health, and health policy. He also serves as chair of the American Medical Association's LGBT Advisory Committee and scientific chair of the national LGBT Health Workforce Conference.

"One of the first things we have started to do is assess LGBT health knowledge among trainees, implement training programs for clinical staff, and ensure patients and staff are protected in health system policies with respect to their sexual orientation and gender identity," he added.

With support from Patrick J. Brennan, MD, the Chief Medical Officer of UPHS, and program faculty advisor Neil O. Fishman, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer, the program secured funding from the University of Pennsylvania Health System and the Provost's Excellence Through Diversity Fund.

The program will also be guided by fellow Penn diversity leaders, including Nancy Tkacs, PhD, RN, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Cultural Affairs, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Beverley A. Crawford, DDS, Director of Diversity Affairs, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

"The Perelman School of Medicine fully supports the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health and its mission to alleviate the health disparities affecting LGBT populations," said Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD, Vice Dean of Diversity and Inclusion at Perelman. "The strong partnership between the schools and the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health will no doubt foster a vibrant and dynamic environment of inclusion and will help advance the health of the community."

Source: Penn Medicine

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