ACCEPT Members Collaborate to Add LGBTQ Care to CUIMC Teaching Tools

April 30, 2020
From left to right, ACCEPT members Olivia Nolan, MD, Olivia Molineaux, MD, Emma Gerstenzang, MD, Alicia Singham Goodwin, and G Tharp

While adolescence can be a difficult time for anyone, statistics show that it’s likely to be even harder for young people who are LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ identifying adolescents are at higher risk than others of alcohol and substance abuse, depression, sexually transmitted infections, and emotional and physical abuse. Research indicates that health care providers can lessen these risks by helping their patients establish a healthy sense of their sexual orientation or gender identity, offering support they may not receive from their family or community, and creating a safe and welcoming clinical environmental. 

“Gender affirming care from an early age is crucial,” says Columbia adolescent medicine fellow Sam Master, DO. “Studies continue to show that the potential negative health disparities associated with LGBTQ+ individuals are not inevitable, and that they can be prevented and avoided with the appropriate support.” 

While the research findings are clear, medical school curricula may not be as up to date. Educating health providers so they can give to LGBTQ+ adolescents and adults the best possible care is a major goal of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center campus-wide group ACCEPT (Across Campus Coordinated Educational Programs for Transgender and Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Health). The group grew out of the medical education scholarly project of Hallie Carol, MD (VP&S 2019, and current pediatric intern at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago) who, along with her faculty mentor, Marina Catallozzi, MD, MSCE, established the ACCEPT working group in the fall of 2018. ACCEPT has grown to about 20 members from Columbia’s medical school; departments of medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry; dental and nursing schools; the school of public health; and staff from the medical center student wellness office. The group meets regularly, with membership open to everyone. 

ACCEPT member and recent medical school graduate Olivia Molineaux, MD (VP&S ’20) is entering a pediatrics residency at University of California at San Fransisco in July. She began volunteering at Q Clinic (VP&S's student-run free clinic that provides primary care for the NYC LGBTQ community) in her first year in medical school. She and other clinic members felt that “the information we needed to offer excellent care to patients who identified as transgender or non-binary wasn't included yet in our medical school curriculum.” 

Dr. Molineaux and three other fourth-year students who also volunteered at the Q Clinic, decided to devote their final-year’s scholarly project time to developing a curriculum modules focused on transgender patient care. Dr. Kim Leon, who will be starting a family medicine residency at Brown University, developed an online module and in-class activity for first-year medical students, introducing them to transgender and gender diverse identities and the health care disparities faced by people who identify as transgender and gender diverse. 

Emma Gerstenzang, MD, who is entering the pediatrics residency program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, created a case-based module on caring for transgender and gender-expansive children and adolescents for the Pediatrics clerkship. Dr. Molineaux created an online module for second-year medical students covering gender-affirming hormonal and surgical therapies. “Through ACCEPT, I was able to find excellent resources to draw on to build the module,” and once the module was complete, “ACCEPT working group members connected me with knowledgeable practitioners and community members to review it for medical accuracy and sensitivity to lived experience of transgender and gender-nonconforming patients.” 

Dr. Olivia Nolan, who will be starting an obstetrics and gynecology residency at Oregon Science and Health University, designed a project to improve practical skills training for students working with LGBTQ-identified patients. “It was exciting to join a collective effort to develop LGBTQ-focused content,” she says. “ACCEPT offered the resources and connections necessary to navigate the complexities of curriculum development, from both a pedagogical and an institutional perspective, as well as opportunities for collaboration and community.”

“ACCEPT recognizes that we will all benefit enormously from working across fields and campuses to gather knowledge and expertise in LGBTQ patient care,” says Dr. Molineaux, “and the group has identified itself as a place where anyone from the CUIMC community can come for information they need to best support their LGBTQ-identified patients.” Adds Dr. Nolan, “My hope is that ACCEPT will support a sustainable movement for change in the health professions through curriculum development and advocacy.”

ACCEPT meets on the last Tuesday of every month, with alternating times; 10-11 am, and then 4:30-5:30 pm the following month. Please email Dr. Marina Catallozzi (mc2840@cumc.columbia.edu) for information about joining the next meeting.