By Gregory Rauch, MD
When I applied to be an internal medicine physician at Rush University Medical Center more than a year and a half ago, I updated my CV to add that I had an “interest in LGBT health care.”
I began my career in a fairly conservative suburban practice where I was limited in my ability to serve the LGBT population openly. Throughout that time, my sexual orientation was a topic that was seldom discussed or brought up. It became frustrating to me that as a gay physician, I was not doing everything I could to be the best ally and advocate for the LGBT community.
I was aware, of course, of the health care disparities facing the community — from access to care to lack of education of health care providers. When I made the commitment to better serve the LGBT community, I quickly learned what limited resources existed in the world of medicine. Only very recently have medical schools begun to incorporate LGBT-focused diversity training into their curriculums, and even then, it is only provided at a limited number of schools.
Open and nonjudgmental
I am grateful now to have the opportunity to teach what I have learned through my own education and experience to the medical students and residents who rotate through my practice at Rush University Physicians at Lincoln Park.
So what is an “interest” in LGBT health care?
I think the real idea I was getting at was that I wanted to commit to serving a population that needs physicians who truly understand where they are coming from and can address any of their concerns in a nonjudgmental, open environment.
Whether they are there to discuss cholesterol and diabetes or whether they are considering taking PREP (daily medication for HIV prevention), they should feel comfortable that their physician is equally capable and understanding of all issues they may choose to bring up.
More than HIV
When many people think of their definition of LGBT medicine, the discussion often revolves around HIV. Although HIV continues to be a prevalent issue in the LGBT community, it is but one of many potential health concerns that the population faces. LGBT patients suffer from the same medical problems as anyone else and have all of the usual reservations others have going to their doctor.
To complicate things further, they have the added stress of feeling as if they are going to have to “come out” on their first visit. LGBT individuals want to feel that their doctor has an excellent understanding of the health problems facing their community, but also can make sure their blood pressure is staying down, or address any other health concerns with equal capability.
Rush has always been a leader in diversity and inclusion. I am thrilled to practice in an environment like Rush that is working hard to educate not only the staff and students, but also the community at large.