A group of students from the Stanford University School of Medicine are working on increasing training for medical students on LGBT healthcare concerns.

After attending the annual conference of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association in 2007, Elizabeth Goldsmith, Leslie Stewart, Juno Obedin-Maliver and Mitchell Lunn decided to form the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Medical Education Research Group.

According to Lunn, many LGBT people are unsure of whether to come out when meeting a new doctor due to previous homophobic comments or a basic lack of knowledge on the part of their doctor concerning their unique health care concerns.

“The fear of insensitivity from their doctor has driven many patients away,” Lunn said. “Sometimes never to return.”

The groups plans to send out surveys to deans at medical education schools in the US and Canada this spring to determine what is being taught and things can be improved.

Questions will include “When learning how to conduct a sexual history, are students at your institution taught to obtain information about same-sex relations, e.g. asking ‘do you have sex with men, women, or both?'” and “Is there a clinical clerkship site that is specifically designed to facilitate LGBT patient care?”

The surveys will also be sent out to all medical students.

Tri Do, MD, assistant adjunct professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco and a leading LGBT health-care activist, said that many medical professionals are unaware of unique LGBT health issues, such as increased risk factors for breast cancer among lesbians, higher rates of depression and anxiety due to homophobic discrimination, and increased rates of hepatitis among gay men.

The Stanford group said: “Our community faces significant barriers to accessing safe, appropriate and comprehensive medical care. These barriers may exacerbate compelling health problems that occur disproportionately among LGBT individuals such as increased rates of certain cancers, infections, chronic diseases.”