Need a curriculum to train medical students on how to interact with LGBT persons

The recent survey published in National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that although the overall attitude of Indian medical students towards homosexuality is positive, the percentage of students with negative attitudes remains quite high. Further work on the medical curriculum is needed to change these negative attitudes so that patients receive appropriate care

Image source: Google
Image source: Google

While Supreme Court has recently passed a historic judgement which has decriminalised homosexuality, it is necessary to know what is the attitude of medical students towards treating patients from LGBT community.

The survey published by NCBI mentions that of 290 students, 270 (93.1%) (148 males and 122 females) completed the questionnaire and were included in the analysis. Overall, 55.6% strongly disagreed that homosexuality was an illness; 70.8% agreed that homosexuals were capable of forming stable relationships.

Only 31.1% believed that homosexual doctors would better understand homosexual patients. About 71.8% reported that talking about homosexuality did not embarrass them, and 81.8% believed that problems associated with homosexuality could be reduced if society was more liberal.

Nonetheless, negative attitudes were reflected in the stereotypical image of homosexuality. About 15.9% of respondents believed that homosexuality was an illness; 24.8% considered homosexuals neurotic, 28.1% considered homosexuals promiscuous; and 8.2% thought that they posed a danger to children.

Dr Heena Merchant Pandit, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Sion Hospital, Mumbai, said, “If students are sensitised, if they work on their biases, there will be no discrimination in treating LGBT patients. It all depends on a particular medical student; his own perception, biases which forms his or her attitude. As a doctor we are supposed to treat all patients irrespective of any person’s sexual orientation. If any student has any homophobia then it is needed that it should be corrected with proper training.”

Dr Shubhangi Parkar, Head of psychiatry department, KEM, said, “It is difficult for medical students to communicate with patient from LGBT community. A patient will not be a usual case for the student. Now there is need to work on how to educate students, make them skilful to treat patients from LGBT community and how to change the attitude of the students towards these patients. We have already started thinking on how it can be brought into academics.”

Dr Ajay Chandanwale, dean of B J Medical College, said, “As a doctor we are supposed to treat all patients, irrespective of their sexual biases. Now, there is need to train students on how to communicate with patients from LGBT community and it is needed to give them physiological knowledge on LGBT community.”