Medical School targets LGBTQ applicants

For the first time, the Yale School of Medicine is targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer applicants with its recruitment efforts.

Last month, the medical school released a LGBTQ-specific admissions brochure and plans to release this material in the official informational packets starting with next year’s entering class. Joseph Rojas MED ’11, who designed the pamphlets, said LGBTQ applicants often go to schools in major metropolitan areas rather than Ivy League institutions like Yale, and these brochures will attempt to combat this trend.

“It’s a big step for our medical school to be doing this,” Jorge Ramallo MED ’13, who heads the school’s Gay-Straight Medical Alliance, said. “It will put Yale on the map as a leader in LGBT health, just by making this simple step.”

Ramallo said that the LGBTQ community is often underrepresented as physicians — a difference he likened to disparities in racial and ethnic diversity. He said he did not notice many people in his medical school class who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ community, he said. The GSMA, in conjuction with the medical school, hope to narrow this gap, he added.

The brochure includes greetings from Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Nancy R. Angoff and an invitation to LGBTQ students to participate in the many events and activities available for them at the medical school. The pamphlet also explains that the GSMA is only one part of a larger network of LGBTQ graduate and professional student groups at Yale.

Richard Silverman ’66, director of the medical school’s Office of Admissions, said that the pamphlet reflects the school’s commitment to diversity.

“The medical school is a place where students with so many backgrounds come together following the school’s mission statement to educate and inspire scholars and future leaders,” Silverman said. “We want to listen to their voices.”

Rojas, who is now a first-year pediatrics resident at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, said he believes it is important that applicants are “able to tell their stories and share who they are.” He added that he thinks people often do not believe that LGBTQ people can be doctors, lawyers and professionals after only meeting them as baristas and bartenders.

Rojas cited his personal experience out of medical school as an example of the challenges facing LGBTQ members.

“[Being part of the LGBTQ community] becomes the awkward joke … or it becomes the assumption that everyone around is straight,” Rojas said. “Overall my experience has been good, except for a few touches.”

Shane Snowdon, director of the Center for LGBT Health & Equity at the University of California at San Francisco, stressed the need for LGBTQ physicians because many LGBTQ patients are afraid of getting care or being judged. Snowdon was one of the speakers at a humanities lecture series offered by the medical school last year that grappled with issues of sexual orientation in hospital settings.

Some of these issues include disproportionately high rates for smoking, depression, alcohol use and sexually transmitted infections among the LGBTQ community, she said.

Silverman said that leaders of the GSMA and school administrators plan to continue working together through discussions to best serve the needs of the LGBTQ community on campus. He likened this challenge to the struggles of bringing coeducation to the medical school in the 1910s.

Ramallo said that he proposed including a section on the school’s application where prospective students can identify themselves as members of the LGBTQ community. This proposition, he said, is set to be discussed with administrators in the future.

Meetings to address these and other LGBTQ issues are scheduled to take place in December.

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