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Health Forum Promotes Better Healthcare for LGBTQI Community

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By Brian Shaw
Staff Writer

Through lively discussions and films, moving speeches and patient panels, the UCSF LGBTQI Health Forum gave participants a deeper understanding of the health needs of LGBTQI patients and strategies to meet those needs.

Now in its sixth year, the annual UCSF LGBTQI Health Forum offered concrete training and important first-person perspectives on working with the LGBTQI community.  More than 200 people attended the Health Forum on February 22, making it the largest such gathering in the country to educate students on LGBTQI health needs.

Breakout sessions stimulated lively discussion around topics such as the basics of health for men who have sex with men to coming out as a health professional.

At a panel on “Kink Health,” students and providers were asked to examine the difficult situation of a “kinky” patient who has bruises, but states that the way in which they were inflicted was consensual.

Panelists who are part of the kink community said that they want the provider, as a mandated reporter, to investigate these claim, but to ultimately defer to the judgment of the patient.

In the introductory course “So...How Do I Ask That?” led by UCSF Faculty Dr. Michell Lunn, MD and Dr. Juno Obedin-Maliver, MD, MPH, the forum brought together students from all of the UCSF professional schools, as well as students from Stanford, Davis, UCLA and local service providers.

Drs. Lunn and Obedin-Maliver high- lighted some of the great disparities within the LGBTQI community—increased obesity among lesbian, higher HIV rates among transgender folks and more discrimination in the healthcare setting in the LGBTQI com- munity.

Despite these challenges, Lunn and Obedin-Maliver noted that all practitioners can work to end these disparities through communicating more and assuming less.

As the day progressed, attendees were af- forded the unique opportunity to hear directly from members of the LGBTQI community about their experiences with the health sys- tem. The panelists shared gripping stories about the struggles they faced and highlighted the need for all working in health services, no matter their title, to respect the essential dignity of their patients and treat all people humanely.

Over lunch, participants watched the film Transgender Tuesdays: A Clinic in the Tender- loin, featuring the storied Tom Waddell clinic. The film highlighted one of the earliest attempts at healthcare for trans people in San Francisco and the positive experiences of the patients who went to the clinics.

After the screening, individuals involved in the making of the film discussed the importance of transgender health. Included on the panel was Cecilia Chung, a transgender woman who battled discrimination for many years and now serves as a Health Commissioner for the City of San Francisco and was recently appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

The event closed with a keynote speech by Eric Sawyer, co-founder of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, ACT UP and current director of Civil Society Partnerships at UNAIDS, New York. Sawyer outlined the history of ACT UP and its impact on the perceptions of both HIV/AIDS and the gay community in the United States.

His moving stories about how ACT UP organized individuals in the gay community to assert their right to health care and, in the absence of government support, create their own systems of care reminded attendees of the continual need to fill gaps in care.

In order to fulfill the healthcare needs of the LGBTQI community, there is much to be done. But, after the Health Forum, there are two hundred more people who are committed and able to do the work.

The event was organized by: Rand Dadasovich (Joint Medical Program), Mark Jeng (Graduate Division), Nicole Copti, Raad Shebib (School of Physical Therapy), Hannan Braun, Sai-Wing Chan, Colette DeJong, Mark Dela Cruz, Elaine Lee, Michael Liu, Jon Phuong, Brandon Perkovich, David Ramierez, Tess Veuthey and Greg Zahner (School of Medicine) with the support of Marcus Ferrone, PharmD, Larry Lariosa (LGBT Resource Center) and Sarah Steer (LGBT Resource Center).

Brain Shaw is a first-year medical student.

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