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Medical students get hands-on LGBTQIA+ healthcare training

Thursday 21 January 2021 2:42pm

Dr Rona Carroll image
Dr Rona Carroll has developed a new six-week placement on LGBTQIA+ healthcare.

Understanding the struggles that the rainbow community often face in healthcare is paramount, and Dr Rona Carroll is helping pave a new path for University of Otago medical students and their relationship with LGBTQIA+ patients.

Dr Carroll, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice and a General Practitioner, specialises in youth health and is ready to help fill the gap she’s noticed.

“I’ve put together a six-week programme where students can gain first-hand experience in LGBTQIA+ healthcare in primary and secondary care settings; gaining knowledge in various aspects including gender affirming hormone therapy, HIV medicine and prevention, and meeting with a gender reassignment surgeon.”

“It was through my work with youth that I became interested in transgender healthcare and saw the need for a better understanding of gender affirming healthcare in general practice. The rainbow community still face health disparities and barriers to accessing healthcare, and medical students often tell me they would benefit from more education in this area.”

“I see a lot of patients who feel nervous about visiting a doctor as they are unsure whether staff will use their name and pronouns correctly or if their health needs will be understood.”

At the start of each year, New Zealand based medical students would usually be preparing to head overseas for their elective placement. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, overseas placements aren’t a possibility for 2021.

Dr Carroll decided she could do something to not only help students with their placement dilemma but also diversify their education for the benefit the rainbow community.

“I’ve put together a six-week programme where students can gain first-hand experience in LGBTQIA+ healthcare in primary and secondary care settings; gaining knowledge in various aspects including gender affirming hormone therapy, HIV medicine and prevention, and meeting with a gender reassignment surgeon.”

Over the six weeks beginning mid-January, the placement will include spending time with community groups InsideOUT, Gender Minorities Aotearoa and the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

The Rule Foundation have kindly provided funding to support this part of the placement.

Dr Carroll is on the Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa (PATHA) education committee.

She has also recently been awarded a university teaching development grant to assist in creating an e-learning unit pilot for fifth year medical students to increase confidence in consulting with patients of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC).

At this stage the placement programme is only on offer for semester 1 2021, but if successful it may make a reappearance in the future.

Our academic building is temporarily closed for seismic reasons but our top class teaching, studying and research programmes remain in full swing.

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