2016 Community Leaders: The Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Advocacy Committee

Melanie Lewis - Associate Dean, Learner Affairs, Office of Learner Advocacy & Wellness; Professors of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

University of Alberta Community Connections Award

I have had the great privilege of working with a group of medical students, the Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Advocacy Committee, who have had an indelible impact on the LGBQT community locally and nationally. The students involved in this group were keenly aware that there were gaps in current health care curricula that posed numerous barriers and adverse consequences to the LGBQT community; they decided to be change agents. This group not only organizes an annual conference that addresses the unique health issues faced by sexual minority and gender variant individuals, but provide a safe space within the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry (FoMD), and moreover have developed curriculum that impacts all medical students.

The Inclusive Health Conference began at a very grassroots level with little formal funding but incredible leadership and vision. The first conference was held in 2014 and had 50 attendees with significant attendance by LGBQT community members. Last year's conference was held at the Matrix Hotel and had 100 attendees including a significant number of health care professionals from all realms of healthcare. The successes of this conference, including attendees' evaluations of the curriculum, have been shared nationally at: The Conference for Medical Education (April 2015) and at The Canadian Professional Association of Transgender Health (October 2015). The 2016 Inclusive Health Conference was held on March 12 at The Robbins Pavilion. It featured prestigious speakers and was positioned to see even more participants from the LGBQT community and healthcare professionals. The realization of this event was built upon incredible vision, persistence, and genuine intent that this conference would make a difference to the LGBQT community.

The initial motivation of the SGA was on a far smaller scale and that was simply to provide support for FoMD students who were struggling with issues related to their own sexual orientation or gender identity. The SGA facilitated a community of individuals to come together and simply "hang-out." The greater vision was to create a safe space within the FoMD amongst students, staff, and faculty free of discrimination.

This group has evolved to be key informants and contributors to the FoMD formal curriculum on issues related to sexual minorities. Their impact on the curriculum will foster a new generation of health care professionals who are better informed and sensitive to the barriers faced by LGBQT individuals. The development of The Inclusive Health Conference saw this group launch their impact to a scale that could not have been imagined.

This group has, without a doubt, contributed to "uplifting the whole people."


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Melanie Lewis - Associate Dean, Learner Affairs, Office of Learner Advocacy & Wellness; Professors of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Dr. Lewis (BN MD MMedEd FRCPC), co-founder of PedsCases, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Associate Dean of Learner Advocacy & Wellness at the University of Alberta. She currently divides her time between scholarly work in the area of medical education and physician health. Clinically, she is general pediatrician who manages complex patients at the Stollery Children's Hospital. She has a special interest in caring for individuals with Down syndrome and is currently also the Medical Director of the Down syndrome Medical clinic.

Community Connection Awards

When: Monday, May 2
Time: 12:00 P.M. - 1:00 P.M.
Where: City Room, City Hall

A dessert reception will follow the presentation