Viewpoint: Lack of data on LGBTQ physicians hampers diversity efforts

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The data on how many physicians identify as LGBTQ is limited, but if more physicians openly identified, the data could be used to track and make further progress toward having a more diverse physician workforce, a physician argued in a blog post for the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Kyle Leggott, MD, a family physician currently doing a fellowship in health politics and policy at Denver-based University of Colorado, wrote in the blog post that while medical institutions had information about its LGBTQ patient population and curriculum geared toward caring for those patients, they usually did not know how many LGBTQ staff members they had as most don't openly identify as LGBTQ.

Professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Association of American Medical Colleges, have expanded the definition of diversity in the physician workforce to include sexual and gender identity.

However, these organizations have only recently started collecting information on the sexual orientation and gender identity of medical students, and there is no large-scale data collection for the sexual orientation and gender identity of resident physicians, practicing physicians or physician leaders.

Dr. Leggott argued that this lack of data can hamper efforts to address a potential lack of LGBTQ diversity in the physician workforce. It is hard to even say if there is a lack of LGBTQ physicians, because there is so little data to backup that claim, he wrote.

Dr. Leggott also pointed out some of the reasons physicians may be afraid to identify as LGBTQ, including homophobic reactions from patients and discrimination from employers. Openly identifying as LGBTQ can also open physicians up to an increased risk of violence.

"Diversity strengthens family medicine, and that diversity includes our LGBTQ physicians. I hope that someday in the near future we have the data needed to align ourselves fully behind that goal and continue advocating for a diverse workforce that serves our communities," he concluded.

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