The Dean’s Advisory Council on LGBTQ Affairs at the Yale School of Medicine held its inaugural meet and greet event on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

The primarily informal program, which ran from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., was attended by students, residents, fellows, staff and faculty. Attendees, including LGBTQ individuals and their non-LGBTQ allies from all parts of the medical school community, were invited to share their perspective on LGBTQ issues in clinical care, medical education and research at the medical school, as well as express support for LGBTQ community members.

Nicole Sitkin MED ’18, the chair of the council, said the meeting was primarily a way for the eight-person council to introduce itself and to learn about the issues the broader community would like LGBTQ advocates to work on. She added that all of the council members were present at the event and that attendees submitted 40 suggestions regarding potential areas of focus.

“The meet and greet went well. It was well-attended and people were able to discuss how they would like to move forward in terms of advocacy for the LGBTQ community,” said Christy Olezeski, an attendee and director of the Yale Pediatric Gender Center. “The council appeared to take attendees’ interest into consideration; baskets were placed around the room in which people could put [notes containing] their hopes for the [council] and ideas for what they would like to see the council achieve in the future.”

The Dean’s Advisory Council on LGBTQ Affairs began its activities with a Nov. 3 community-wide email from Dean of the medical school Robert Alpern. The inaugural council comprises students, trainees and faculty, and it was created in the spirit of building a more diverse and inclusive environment at the medical school, according to the email.

The council aims to provide a venue for LGBTQ faculty, students and staff to connect with one another; to guide the expansion of LGBTQ health research; and to collaborate on medical education initiatives that prepare medical school trainees to serve patients, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sitkin highlighted key areas of advocacy for the council, including the cultivation of research excellence in LGBTQ health, the extension of curricular innovations focused on LGBTQ health and more generally increasing visibility and community for LGBTQ staff and students.

“Sexual and gender minority individuals … have somewhat unique experiences and challenges, and while there is a lot that has been done, there is a lot more that we can do as an institution to make ourselves proactively inclusive and supportive of a whole range of identities and experiences,” Sitkin said.

She added that the medical school community has a lot of “exciting programming starting around LGBTQ health care,” including a gender affirming surgery program at Yale Urology and a pediatric gender clinic.

Stanton Honig, director of the Gender Affirming Surgery Clinic in Yale Surgery, said the program, which formally began in spring 2016, gives local, regional and national patients the option to avail of male-to-female gender affirming surgery.

Honig added that while he is not on the advisory council, he is “trying to show support and interest in teaching, research and clinical care for the LGBTQ community.” As a surgeon, Honig said that respecting the interests and goals of his patients is of paramount importance.

“Every patient is different. Some patients will only want to have hormone therapy, others will want to have top surgery or facial surgery,” Honig said. “Each individual is different … we shouldn’t make assumptions about what people want and what they don’t want.”

In addition to introducing various programs that advocate for LGBTQ interests, John Encandela, the medical school’s associate director for curriculum and educator assessment as the medical school and a faculty member involved with the council, told the News that he has worked with Sitkin over the past couple of years to address LGBTQ health issues in the curriculum.

Encandela added that the formation of the advisory council for LGBTQ affairs was a “natural step”, especially considering that the medical school had been developing committees around various groups on campus.

According to Alpern’s email, the medical school’s Office of Communications is currently developing a website for the council.