Medical students promote inclusive health care

Inclusive Health Conference destigmatizes LGBTQ health.

Ross Neitz - 08 March 2017

Imagine going to a doctor's office and feeling singled out. Stared at. You leave the health clinic with the sinking impression that you have not been heard, and that your health needs have not been met. For many in the LGBTQ community this is a scenario that plays out far too often.

Work is underway to help improve LGBTQ health care experiences. At the forefront of the movement are University of Alberta students, a diverse group of inclusive health champions behind Edmonton's annual Inclusive Health Conference.

The conference, now in its fourth year, brings together health professionals and interested members of the public to discuss LGBTQ health topics.

"There are still lots of misconceptions, stereotypes and judgment around sexual and gender minorities," says Derek Fehr, a medical student at the U of A who is helping to organize the conference.

"Those exist in society in general and also specifically among health care providers. Breaking down some of those barriers, and really educating our doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other health care providers on how to communicate with the LGBTQ community in a way that's compassionate, understanding, without judgment and without stereotypes, is absolutely essential to providing good care to this population."

The Inclusive Health Conference has seen steady growth in its four years of existence. In its first year it had an attendance of about 40 people. This year, attendance is expected to top 200, a dynamic mix of physicians, nurses, other health-care professionals, medical students and members of the general public. The one-day event will feature nine speakers addressing a broad range of topics from mental health, to nursing and social work, to issues specifically affecting lesbian and transgender women.

Conference organizers hope to address gaps in health knowledge through the event. More importantly, they hope to drive change.

"It will take a long time for all of the pieces to be put into effect and to really see a massive change in health disparities affecting LGBTQ people. But we are definitely seeing a lot more interest [in the topic] building up in the health professions and in the community. I really see that as progress," says Fehr.

The Inclusive Health Conference will be held on March 11 at the Matrix Hotel in downtown Edmonton from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information about the event can be found here.