Sexuality Matters in Healthcare: a ... session for medical students


Sexuality Matters in Healthcare: a new teaching session for medical students

J Kavanagh, N Asher, C Mclaughlin, E Simmons, A Taylor, E van Blankenstein, A Smaje, J Salkind, K Woolf

J Kavanagh, Principal Clinical Teaching Fellow, UCL Medical School, United Kingdom [email protected]

Background and Purpose

Participants in a 2012 workshop on medical student prejudice identified homophobia as the most frequent form. In response a teaching session called ‘Sexuality matters in healthcare’ was designed and delivered in the Year 4 MBBS curriculum, 2013/14.

The session aimed to help students:

• Understand the impact of homophobia and heterosexism on health

• Consider how students and doctors can promote the health and well-being of LGB (lesbian gay bisexual) patients and colleagues

Session outline

Large group: video lecture by Professor Michael King

‘Understanding homophobia’

Small group activities:

Completing a ‘homophobia index


Discussing LGB health inequalities


Watching comedy sketch ‘levels of homophobia

Watching video clip on using ‘gay’ pejoratively



Discussing LGB patient case

Discussing experiences of homophobia and heterosexism

Brainstorming how to fulfil professional responsibility to LGB patients and colleagues

Material for the seminar was developed by the Ethics and Law lead and three final year medical students with advice from a Bristol medical student. Sessions were facilitated by final year ‘peer assisted learning’ students (PALS) paired with self-identified LGB

Year 5 medical students.


296 students attended the session. 187 pre and post-session


were completed:

Session prepared them to take an accurate history from LGB patients



Felt confident they would appropriate language and behave in an LGBinclusive way


Felt it was important medical students, not staff, facilitate the session



Found sessions useful


0 10 20 30 40 50 60

% Respondents

70 80 90 100

% Pre-session % Post-session

Free text responses to a question about behaviour-change found students were less likely to make assumptions about sexuality or use ‘gay’ pejoratively, and more likely to use neutral/inclusive language and challenge homophobia.


1. Adapted from Bowling Green State University ‘Index of homophobia’. ( (accessed 10 September 2013).

2. Hunt, R., Fish, J. Prescription for change: Lesbian and bisexual women’s health check, 2008, Stonewall publication

3. Meads, C., Pennant, M., McManus, J., Bayliss, S. A systematic review of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health in the West Midlands region of the

UK compared to published UK research. 2009. West Midlands Health Technology Assessment Collaboration, Unit of Public Health, Epidemiology and

Biostatistics, University of Birmingham


The teaching session also prompted discussion about support for

LGBT+ medical students at UCLMS. This led to the founding of a peer support network called LGBTalk


in December 2013.

LGBTalk provides a mentoring service, online resources and socials for LGBT+ medical students. LGBTalk is also working with faculty members to develop core MBBS curriculum teaching sessions on sexuality, gender and LGBT+ health-related matters.


Mentor scheme

Core curriculum content

Peer support


Mentor training


‘Sexuality matters in healthcare’ helped students understand the impact of homophobia and heterosexism, and encouraged behaviour that promotes LGB health. The session is now an established part of the core MBBS curriculum.

The session also inspired the setting up of LGBTalk and the development of additional MBBS sessions on sexuality and gender, trans* and intersex healthcare and LGBT+ mental health.

4. Ash Beckham at Ignite Boulder 20 ( (accessed 23 march 2013)

5. Paul Foot

– Levels of Homophobia ( (accessed 4 July 2013)

6. (accessed 28 October 2014)