Faculty and students at the Yale School of Medicine have been awarded the Innovation in Medical Education Award for a project that places a new emphasis on addressing LGBTQI issues and intersectionality in medical school curriculum.

Medical students Nix Sitkin MED ’18 and Michael Solotke ’13 MED ’20 as well as medical school professors John Encandela and Michael Schwartz were recognized for their work in improving awareness of health care needs specific to historically marginalized populations, such as the LGBTQI community. The award, which includes a $3,000 stipend, was presented by the Northeast Group on Educational Affairs, part of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The curriculum development collaboration began during the 2014–15 academic year. Sitkin approached Schwartz, the associate dean for curriculum at the Yale School of Medicine, with a presentation on LGBTQI health disparities and ways to improve Yale’s existing curriculum. Sitkin had experience working with LGBTQI health issues before medical school, which helped inform her of the “extensive mental and physical health disparities experienced by the LGBTQI community,” she said.

“Unfortunately, one of the many reasons these disparities exist — in addition to social stigma and structural bias — is the provider,” Sitkin said. “Physicians are members of society, and they can perpetuate social stigmas if they are not knowledgeable and engage in non-inclusive behavior.”

Sitkin pointed out that historically, identifying as LGBTQI has been interpreted as a medical condition. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — a widely used resource that lists all classifications of mental disorders — labeled homosexuality as a diagnosable disorder until 1973. The DSM also considered transgender people to suffer from a “gender identity disorder” until 2013, when the term was replaced with “gender dysphoria.”

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