Trans health education in medical school: The current state of things

Image credit: Flickr user Hamza Butt

By Carmen Boudreau

A recent study published in LGBT Health explored the benefit of trans health-specific education sessions for health professions students [1]. In the study, 46 students were asked to complete ten lunchtime sessions where they were educated on transgender health and issues in care. Before and after the study, they were asked to complete measures of transphobia and their knowledge on best practice for trans patients. It was found that after completing the course, students were more competent in specific trans-related knowledge domains including use of appropriate terminology, how to collect gender identity, the DSM-5 diagnosis of gender dysphoria, medications used for gender affirmation, and relevant federal policy. Students also had reduced levels of transphobia. These outcomes speak to the importance increasing education and awareness of trans health among young professionals.

After reading this article, I found myself reflecting on my own experiences in learning about trans health. I am a Canadian medical student entering my third year of training. I have just completed the first two years, which consisted mainly of classroom time. It is during these years that we are able to explore not only the science, but the ethics, philosophy, and practice of modern medicine, with the ultimate goal of being prepared to enter the clinical phase of our training. When you only have two years to learn everything, it is safe to say that no topic is done justice, and trans health is no exception. Unfortunately, we did not have ten lunchtime sessions to explore the complex issues and barriers faced by trans patients. In true medical school form, we grazed the surface of this topic like we would any other: with one three-hour session.

It was a fantastic session.

Our class was divided into small groups of eight students and placed in tutorial rooms with a physician tutor and a volunteer trans patient. Although there were concrete objectives outlining what content to cover in this time, there was relaxed and conversational feel that made the interaction surprisingly organic. Over the course of three hours, we were educated on anatomy and physiology, language, inclusive practice strategies, barriers in care, interview techniques, and stigma against trans patients. We were also provided with an open and safe space to ask questions to our volunteer patient who was understanding and keen to help. It was an informative and engaging session threaded together with a first person narrative of experiencing the healthcare system as a trans patient. I left the tutorial room feeling more confident in my medical knowledge and in my ability to better serve my community as a more thoughtful and inclusive future physician.

The subject was never re-visited.



[1] Braun, H. M., Garcia-Grossman, I. R., Quinones-Rivera, A., & Deutsch, M. B. (2017). Outcome and Impact Evaluation of a Transgender Health Course for Health Profession Students. LGBT health, 4(1), 55-61.