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Stanford Medicine

History, LGBT, Medical Education

A Harvard professor’s words on being gay and in medicine

Ready to be moved? Take a few minutes to read this touching essay, which CommonHealth posted today, on being gay in the medical field. Written by Mark Schuster, MD, PhD, the William Berenberg Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston, the text is based on a speech the author gave in 2010 at the Children’s Hospital Boston GLBT & Friends Celebration.

Schuster records incidents of discrimination he faced or observed during his medical education in the 1980s and in his early career. He also remarks on how the field has progressed in its treatment of gays and lesbians and brings to light issues that still need addressing. From the piece:

It may seem odd that I didn’t complain to anyone, but there was no one at the medical school or the hospital to whom I or my gay classmates thought it was safe to complain. There were no policies to protect us; no grievance boards; no mechanisms in place. Times have changed, but I still have undergrads ask me if they can come out in their medical school applications and medical students ask if they can come out in their residency applications. Yes, times have changed, but they have not changed enough.

I could not believe that in a mere two decades we had gone from “I’ve decided not to write you a recommendation” to “Your job is to get this guy’s partner a fellowship.”

It’s easy for me to think that my experiences two decades ago are ancient history. For me, they are. I’ve been lucky enough to construct a life that does not involve a daily fear of being outed, of being beaten, of being fired, or of having my children taken away from me. But many people still live with such fears. My experiences wouldn’t sound so quaint to them.

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