Every Hospital System Needs An LGBTQ Health Director – Lifotravel

If you’re a queer person who has ever set foot in a doctor’s office, then you know that the medical industrial system was not built with us in mind. There is still a lot of ignorance around queer sex, and confusion (or resistance) to trans and nonbinary people’s identities. And while several hospitals have launched initiatives and professional development programs for their staff to learn how to better treat LGBTQIA communities, talk is cheap without established leaders who can move the needle.

This is what came to mind when I read about Kevin Kline, a physician and professor at the University of Pennsylvania who was just appointed medical director for LGBTQ health at Penn Medicine. It’s a brand-new role, and he’s the first to fill it, which leads me to believe that this kind of position doesn’t exist yet in most hospital systems.

This is not to say that there aren’t queer medical titans who have been fighting for our fair health care since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic — Dr. Kenneth Mayer is one of them. But we need more queer-affirming medical leaders in positions of power to help combat the homophobic and anti-trans legislation (and attitudes) that somehow persist.

Penn Medicine has been at the forefront of queer-inclusive care for a while, but the importance of roles such as this one is especially clear now when so many policies are limiting access to health care for queer and trans people.

There are several states across the country that restrict or ban gender-affirming care for trans youth, but discrimination in the medical field can come in many different, sometimes subtler forms. For example, if a doctor assumes that a trans person is cisgender, they could potentially neglect important aspects of caring for that patient, such as screening for breast cancer for a trans man or considering prostate health for trans women. This is wild, but I’ve actually been to doctors who did not know how PrEP, the medication used to prevent HIV, worked.

“LGBTQ+ patients should expect the same level of care whether they come to the emergency department with a broken bone or are seeing their primary care provider for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) follow-up,” Kline said in a Penn press release. “However, providers across specialties don’t always share the same base-level knowledge on LGBTQ-affirming care because we all come from different backgrounds where this was often not a focus of our educations.”

Among other things, Kline will be responsible for standardizing guidelines for LGBTQ patient care and expanding queer-affirming services at Penn, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. He will also work to increase education around LGBTQIA-affirming practices for Penn medical students and staff.

Penn Medicine — and other forward-thinking institutions that have been prioritizing LGBTQ health for years — are showing us the potential for a safer future for queer people. Here’s hoping everyone else is paying attention.


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