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  • Medical students unite worldwide for marriage equality

    AMSA (that's us!) has joined AMSA (that's the Australian Medical Students’ Association) and signed on to their draft policy statement which was submitted to the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), calling on governments worldwide to legalize same-sex marriage.

    The Australian Medical Students' Association President Mr. Ben Veness said, “We reject discrimination based on gender and sexuality in all its forms. Legislation marginalising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals contributes to their increased mental health risks. LGBTI individuals are more likely to attempt suicide and have an increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders and drug addictions. There are no health arguments in favour of defining marriage as a legal union solely between a man and a woman. As medical students, we want to see every individual have the best opportunity for good health. Marriage equality will help achieve this.”

    The Australian medical students will be traveling to Baltimore, Maryland, next month to present their policy at the International Federation of Medical Students' Associations General Assembly. Read more here.

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  • Steps toward equality but still a long way to go....

    By Lexi Light
    Chair, AMSA Gender & Sexuality Committee

    Last week’s national elections brought the re-election of President Barack Obama, along with keeping Democratic control of the Senate and Republican control of the House of Representatives.

    With the re-election of President Obama, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will now have the opportunity to be carried out over the next 4 years. While the age of medical coverage on one’s parents plan until 26 is already in effect, we will soon be seeing many other aspects of the ACA put into action. This includes expanded coverage to women’s health care for which contraceptive counseling and contraception is only the beginning. The mandate also covers annual well woman visits, STD and HIV screening, prenatal care, breastfeeding support, mammograms, and intimate partner violence services. This is a huge victory for women, and one step closer to AMSA’s goal of universal healthcare coverage for all people in the United States.

    Additionally, Maine, Maryland, and Washington State all passed “marriage equality” amendments and Minnesota voted down the bill that would have constitutionally defined marriage as between a man and a woman. In a 2006 article, “I Do, but I Can’t” the authors address that lack of access to marriage stratifies the LGBT population on many fronts including cultural, political, and economical. The ever growing list of States now broadening the definition of marriage is an excellent start. While we commend these states, it is important to note that even with state recognition of marriage, the rights do not extent to national issues including military benefits, immigration for an international partner, and federal taxes.

    We also recognize that this is only one step in the march to full equality. According to the Human Rights Campaign, only 21 states actually outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 16 states outlaw discrimination based on gender identity. There is a lot of work to be done at the state and national level to increase anti-decimation legislation & enforcement, and end bullying for LGBT youth. President Obama has done a lot for the LGBT community over his last term including the repeal of DADT, signing the Matthew Shepard hate crimes act, and directing the HHS to guarantee hospital visitation for LGBT families. We are optimistic that he in collaboration with the new congress and the Supreme court will do even more over the next 4.

    There is still a long way to go for full LGBT equality to be achieved nationally.

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  • Where do we draw the line between rights and benefits?

    Carl G. Streed Jr.
    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
    M.D. Candidate, Class of 2013

    Following the unjust denial of Janice Langbehn's right to be at the bedside as her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, lie dying, Pres. Obama directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to address hospital visitation, medical decision-making, and other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families, resulting in the granting of hospital visitation rights to patient chosen designees.

    "...the failure to have [Americans'] wishes respected concerning who may visit them or make medical decisions on their behalf has real consequences. It means that doctors and nurses do not always have the best information ... It means that a stressful and at times terrifying experience for patients is senselessly compounded by indignity and unfairness. And it means that all too often, people are made to suffer or even to pass away alone, denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments while a loved one is left worrying and pacing down the hall." Respecting the Rights of Hospital Patients to Receive Visitors and to Designate Surrogate Decision Makers for Medical Emergencies

    But this past weekend, the Republican Presidential hopeful made clear he believes LGBT individuals do not have the right to marriage, adoption, or hospital visitation. They are all benefits to be granted state-by-state...well not marriage...the federal government will ban that:

    "Governor Romney supports a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution that defines marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. Governor Romney also believes, consistent with the 10th Amendment, that it should be left to states to decide whether to grant same-sex couples certain benefits, such as hospital visitation rights and the ability to adopt children. I referred to the Tenth Amendment only when speaking about these kinds of benefits – not marriage."-Bay Buchanan, Gov. Romney Advisor

    The Republican Nominee has chosen to ignore current policy in favor of political gain, he has chosen to ignore the dignity of a group of Americans in favor of the votes of bigots, he has chosen to ignore the advice of medical professionals in favor of...what?

    Our American Medical Association supports legal recognition of domestic partners for hospital visitation rights and as the primary medical care decision maker in the absence of an alternative health care proxy designee. (Res. 101, I-01; Reaffirmed: CMS Rep. 7, A-11)

    Our American Medical Association encourages all hospitals to add to their rules and regulations, and to their Patient's Bill of Rights, language permitting same sex couples and their dependent children the same hospital visitation privileges offered to married couples.(Res. 733, A-06)

    Where do we draw the line between rights and benefits? Is my right to work as a physician, currently protected from discrimination on account of my sexual orientation, a benefit as well? Is my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness also a benefit to be granted state by state rather than guaranteed across the nation?

    As a medical professional-to-be, I wonder why politicians keep telling our patients how to die, how to live, how to love.

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  • London Doctor Tells Students to Act Less "Overtly Gay"

    Dr. Una Coales, a London physician, recently told medical students to act less gay if they wanted to get further in their careers. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is now investigating Dr. Coales.

    Dr Una Coales, a member of the RCGP council, suggested gay students speak in deeper voices and alter their body language to increase their chances of success in the RCGP Clinical Skills Assessment. She told one student to walk like a "straight" man. Read more.

    In an op-ed for The Independent, Coales says she was only trying to help students avoid being subject to existing bias.

    We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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  • Highlights from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Providers and Students Listening Session

    Carl G. Streed Jr., National LGBT Policy Coordinator


    AMSA was invited to a Human Resources Service Administration (HRSA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Providers and Students Listening Session held at the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday, November 1st. 

    Last April, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a list of recommendations stating how HHS could work to improve the health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.  Included in those recommendations, the Secretary stated that “HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration will also convene professional groups that represent LGBT health providers and students to identify challenges and opportunities for training LGBT providers and to isolate strategies geared toward increasing culturally competent care for LGBT patients.”

    As such, this first listening session was convened to address the following questions: 

    • What are the training challenges and opportunities for LGBT providers?
    • What strategies would be helpful to increase culturally competent care for LGBT patients? 
    • How/what levers can be used to advance cultural competency through health professions training (inclusive of behavioral health)?
    • How can HHS use its health professions grants to encourage inclusion of cultural competency materials?

    The meeting was an excellent opportunity to network with other national organizations, health care facilities, and research centers focused on LGBT health and well-being: Fenway Health, Howard Brown Health Center, The Coalition for LGBT Health, AAMC, University of California Schools, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association to name only a few attendees.

    After a brief introduction by HRSA administrator, Mary Wakefield, and SAMHSA administrator, Pamela Hyde, 60 minutes were allotted to address the above questions. Unfortunately, given the significant number of attendees, only the first question was addressed; I only had about 90 seconds to share AMSA's perspective.

    Some key themes echoed throughout the session:

    • The culture of medical training programs needs to shift and realize the importance of LGBT cultural competency
    • Training is currently inadequate and does not prepare current students to provide adequate care for LGBT patients
    • Many current providers admittedly feel they are lacking skills and knowledge to best serve LGBT patients
    • Many providers are eager for additional training
    • We need to make LGBT Cultural Competency training a REQUIREMENT of funding and accreditation in order to ensure all adopt these measures
    • There needs to be a centralized source of recommendations/enforcement

    Following the session, I had an opportunity to talk with a representative of the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the DHHS as well as representatives of the AAMC to discuss student involvement in developing training guidelines. Hopefully these connections will prove fruitful and allow AMSA to take a more active role in developing student training materials and recommendations.

    I've since sent through Inspiration Exchange the announcement of regional listening sessions and I encourage you all to forward it widely to not only AMSA members but anyone interested in affecting positive change for the LGBT community.

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