This month’s magazine focuses on the challenges faced by our colleagues and patients from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and more (LGBTQIA+) communities and how we can support them as allies in health care.
As health care professionals, we face challenges in how we deliver care to our patients. We recognize that when you can bring your true, authentic self to work, and when your co-workers acknowledge and honor who you are, you are truly supported and successful. Those in the LGBTQIA+ community have been caught in a culture war between morals and righteousness, and it has left many wondering how they might advocate or support those affected by the changes. SHM strives to create a voice for those who feel oppressed or marginalized by creating action steps to build a more equitable and inclusive culture at SHM and in our society. We hope to do so in two ways.
The first aim is to make SHM an organization that creates a sense of belonging for hospital medicine professionals identifying within the LGTBQIA+ community. The second is to provide resources to help SHM members create inclusive and affirming clinical environments for LGBTQIA+ patients.
Research shows that LGBTQIA+ health care workers face similar barriers to other minoritized groups, such as low visibility, discrimination in the workplace, and feelings of isolation. However, sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data are not routinely collected throughout health care institutions for either data tracking or attitudes assessments. Therefore, you may have noticed that SHM member demographic questions now allow for optional self-identification of SOGI data. This data is critical in defining our baseline so we may determine future goals, programmatic innovations, recommendations, and the attitudes of LGBTQIA+ members. We hope to use this information to ensure LGBTQIA+ diversity in our committees, leadership, and educational materials.
LGBTQIA+ patients also encounter obstacles in the pursuit of equitable care. They can have trouble with basic access to health care services along with limited insurance coverage. LGBTQIA+ individuals may face bias and discrimination from health care professionals resulting in distrust. Finally, LGBTQIA+ patients sometimes find their clinicians are friendly and accepting but do not have the clinical experience or cultural humility to care for them. As part of SHM’s ongoing commitment to patient care and building on the work started by the SHM DEI task force, SHM will continue to seek topics centered on LGBTQIA+ health for future conferences, meetings, and CME activities. SHM members are encouraged to participate in the LGBTQ+ Health Series created by the task force in 2021. The course is free to SHM members and contains several timely content areas, which include CME credit.
Increasing diversity leads to increased workplace productivity and innovation as it includes more diverse perspectives from lived experiences improving how workers solve problems. SHM has created a strong framework through its DEI Committee and SIG to ensure there is an ongoing effort to highlight continuous opportunities for the Society to remain focused on LGBTQIA+ inclusion and health. SHM’s goal is for local and regional hospitalist groups and their respective organizations to accelerate the progress for DEI work, disrupt biased infrastructures that impede progress, and foster belonging. Now, more than ever, true allyship and effective sponsorship are needed throughout the leadership spectrum to support the LGBTQIA+ community.
Dr. Cabrera is a hospitalist at Harborview Medical Center and the University of Washington Medical Center—Montlake, clinical assistant professor, division of general internal medicine at UW School of Medicine, and the assistant program director for diversity and inclusion. Dr. Dao is a hospitalist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, Mo., and assistant professor of internal medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. Dr. Rizk is the founder and chief of the division of hospital medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and a professor at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine. They’re members of SHM’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.