We’ve all had to visit the doctor at some point and experienced a range of emotions. Maybe you were in pain and not up to making the trip. Maybe you were bringing your sick child and were worried about how they’d behave. But have you ever felt distressed about visiting the doctor for fear of being judged or discriminated against? Have you felt concerned you might receive subpar care because of who you are? In fact, many Alabamians who identify as LGBTQ+ have felt something like this, before or during a doctor’s visit.
“I believe a challenge many people in Alabama face is their inability to come out due to the environment in which they are surrounded,” said Tyler King, vice president of MedPride and Allies. “As many people say, LGBTQ+ people do not just ‘come out’ once, they come out multiple times a day. This risk of coming out can lead to many patients not disclosing all of their information to a doctor due to fear of being rejected.
“If a physician does not know the whole story of a patient, I do not believe that they are getting the appropriate care that they deserve which is a huge disservice to our LGBTQ+ patients. To change this, health care workers need to be educated on these LGBTQ+ health topics and need to be taught early in their health care careers how to be culturally competent. It is something that MedPride is definitely trying to bring into USACOM’s [University of South Alabama College of Medicine] curriculum.”
Med Pride and Allies is a student-run organization that grew out of the University of South Alabama College of Medicine (USACOM) Diversity and Inclusion office. It was founded by faculty adviser Dr. Franklin Trimm, president Stuart McFarland and various graduated medical students in 2018 to create a safe and friendly environment for LGBTQ+ students, residents and faculty at USA in medical education. They promote diversity through providing resources and support, while also spreading awareness to the community and clinics concerning the imbalance in health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people so that each and every person can receive adequate care.
To assist in furthering their goals, they have teamed up with Rainbow Mobile — a local LGBTQ group that focuses on providing resources and community events, and pursuing projects in Southwest Alabama — to create an all-inclusive health forum. Representatives of these organizations and multiple speakers and physicians will be present. The forum, to be held at USA on Feb. 28, will conduct discussions on health, give answers and provide screenings for those who want them.
“We will kick off the event with a presentation from Katherine George, vice president of education and training for Planned Parenthood on sexually transmitted infections as well as general sexual health maintenance,” King said. “We are extremely lucky to have her come down from Atlanta to educate our community. We will have AIDS Alabama South there to administer HIV OraQuick tests [oral swab with results in 20 minutes]. Some of our awesome medical students at USACOM will be helping with that, as well. SAVE [Sexual Assault and Violence Education] educators will also have a poster presentation. The event will conclude with a panel of a few local physicians who will be answering questions from the community. This will be an open forum but anonymous text-in questions will also be accepted.”
Dr. Natalie Fox, director of nursing for USA Physicians Group and manager of clinical operations for pediatrics, will be present to give a presentation on pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV.
“I am passionate about health promotion,” Dr. Fox said. “I want to enable people to have control over their own health outcomes so that they feel mobilized and capable of taking action to improve their health. I have been seeing adolescent and young adult patients for the past eight years as a healthcare professional, and I have seen firsthand how a lack of knowledge effectively undermines patients’ confidence and ability to engage in issues pertaining to their own health. I hope that those attending the forums will get some of the answers they need to make healthy decisions.”
Living in Alabama and being LGBTQ+ is not always easy. So many obstacles stand in the way, but progress is and will continue to be made.
“In September, when the first Drag Queen Story Hour was held downtown and tons of people were decked out in rainbow apparel and came to support, I knew that change was happening in Mobile and I could not have been more proud,” King said. “We still have a long way to go but I believe change is on the horizon and we will keep pushing and fighting for it.”
More information on the health forum is available on the Facebook event page (facebook.com/events/549324418812289). The health forum will take place Feb. 28 in the Terrace Room of USA’s Student Center at 6:30 p.m.
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