INDIANAPOLIS — A major push is underway right now to address some of the challenges members of the LGBTQ+ community face when it comes to health care.
The IU School of Medicine is hosting a virtual conference for health care providers to make sure everyone gets equal access and feels comfortable visiting the doctor.
“A lot of times as an LGBTQ+ patient you can go into a doctor’s office and not necessarily know what you can talk about because you're not sure what kind of space it is going to be,” Em Collins, an Indianapolis resident, said.
Collins said he came out as transgender about four years ago.
“I'm not going to speak for every LGBTQ+ person, but I will say that's probably a more common answer that everybody has experienced either discrimination or you know different types of biases, or just the experience where the healthcare provider doesn't have the appropriate training,” Collins said.
Experts say when that happens there can be devastating impacts.
“A lot of national data has shown that people who are LGBTQ+, especially the trans community, faced discrimination in trying to find and access necessary services," said Dr. Juan Carlos Venis, assistant professor of clinical family medicine at the IU School of Medicine. "Even once they get in the door they have experienced the stigma and discrimination, and as a result, they may make decisions to delay seeking care or to not take care when it was medically needed because of this fear."
That’s why the IU School of Medicine is hosting a virtual conference for healthcare providers. More than 500 have registered nationwide.
“The conference is aiming to have an open door so you can come in and learn what it means to be an affirming, welcoming provider, not just that but start to develop some of those basic skills and how I can take good care of people regardless of their gender identity and regardless of who they love?” Venis said.
Collins said access to things like mental health services, hormone therapy and gender affirmation surgery is important, but he thinks the little things play a big role as well.
“If a physician walks in and says 'Hi I'm so-and-so these are my pronouns, what are yours?' It just opens the door," Collins said. "It allows a patient like myself to feel heard and comfortable in that situation, to provide that welcoming environment, and it allows the patient to be able to talk more about the needs or concerns they actually have."