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Dean’s Lecture Series puts spotlight on health of sexual and gender minorities

In the latest installment of the Dean's Lecture Series, the series' diversity theme broadened to address the health of gender and sexual minorities. The event featured two speakers - Mitchell Lunn, MD, assistant professor at UC San Francisco, and Marci Bowers, MD, a Northern California gynecologist who is the first transgender woman to perform transgender surgery - and Dean Lloyd Minor, MD, told the crowd the talks were intended as inspiration.

"I hope that everyone leaves here today with fresh ideas and renewed energy for ensuring that sexual and gender minorities receive the equitable and sensitive health care that is their right," he said during his opening remarks.

Despite significant progress, the community — known variously as LGBTQ or as SGM for sexual and gender minorities — has many needs, kick-off speaker Lunn said. A 2010 graduate of the School of Medicine, he now specializes in SGM heath.

"Discrimination is persistent and pervasive," Lunn said. But a lack of data is holding up many potentially life-saving public-health interventions. What is known is alarming: About 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. And in California, more than twice as many gays and lesbians smoke than heterosexuals, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Lunn said he is working to remedy the gaps in data with several projects, including The PRIDE Study, a long-term study of the general health of sexual and gender minorities. While at Stanford, Lunn co-founded the LGBT Medical Education Research Group, a research and advocacy group, an effort that he credited with launching his current career trajectory.

During her talk, Bowers, who has performed about 1,500 male-to-female surgeries, recounted important milestones in transgender history, including the gradual spread of insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgeries. Medicare, for example, began covering the surgeries in 2014. The future is bright, she said.

"This generation, for the first time in history, is really demanding an unprecedented level of honesty and is no longer burdened by the guilt and shame," Bowers said.

Previously: Advice for clinicians on addressing gender- and sex-related issuesIntel's Rosalind Hudnell kicks off Dean's Lecture Series on diversity, Study shows funding for LGBT health research lacking, offers solutions and A call for more training on LGBT health issues
Photos by Norbert von der Groeben

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