Equality for sexual and gender minorities (SGMs)—including members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities—has become an integral part of the national conversation in the United States. Although SGM civil rights have expanded in recent years, these populations continue to experience unique health and health care disparities, including poor access to health care, stigmatization, and discrimination. SGM trainees and physicians also face challenges, including derogatory comments, humiliation, harassment, fear of being ostracized, and residency/job placement discrimination. These inequities are not mutually exclusive to either patients or providers; instead, they are intertwined parts of a persistent, negative culture in medicine toward SGM individuals.
In this Perspective, the authors argue that SGM physicians must lead this charge for equality by fostering diversity and inclusion in medicine. They posit that academic medicine can accomplish this goal by (1) modernizing research on the physician workforce, (2) implementing new policies and programs to promote safe and supportive training and practice environments, and (3) developing recruitment practices to ensure a diverse, competent physician workforce that includes SGM individuals.
These efforts will have an immediate impact by identifying and empowering new leaders to address SGM health care reform, creating diverse training environments that promote cultural competency, and aligning medicine with other professional fields (e.g., business, law) that already are working toward these goals. By tackling the inequities that SGM providers face, academic medicine can normalize sexual and gender identity disclosure and promote a welcoming, supportive environment for everyone in medicine, including patients.