Yesterday on Well, Pauline Chen, MD, recounted the story of a doctor who unknowingly treated a transgender woman. Because of a lack of communication between doctor and patient, it wasn’t until the physician began an operation on the patient and pulled down the sheets that he discovered she had male genitalia.
Not a confidence inspiring story for any physician. Chen writes it’s a story that continues to haunt her and other colleagues because it could have happened to any one of them. Medical schools need to do a better job of training students on how to care for transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual patients.
Chen refers to a recent Stanford study that showed one-third of all medical schools in the U.S. and Canada have no training at all for this population and, on average, schools provided only five hours of curriculum devoted to the topic.
Chen describes her own medical education:
While we had been trained well in treating cancer with the best chemotherapy regimen, curing flesh-eating infections with the most powerful antibiotics or transplanting organs with the greatest of ease, when it came to caring for patients who were transgender, we were lost. For many of us, the same could be said for lesbian, gay and bisexual patients as well. The only thing most of us knew how to do was ask about a single issue: “Whom are you having sex with? Men, women or both?”