Acceptance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Patients, Attitudes About Their Treatment, and Related Medical Knowledge Among Osteopathic Medical Students

Jessica Lapinski, OMS III; Patricia Sexton, MS, DHEd; and Lauren Baker, BA
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: December 4, 2013

Accepted: April 21, 2014

Published: October 1, 2014

J Osteopath Med; 114(10): 788-796

Context: Limited research exists on the health issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients, as viewed in the context of osteopathic medical education. A full understanding of current medical students’ acceptance of, attitudes toward, and knowledge of these issues could lead to the development and incorporation of curricula focusing on the care of LGBT patients into colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs).

Objectives: To determine among osteopathic medical students the levels of acceptance of LGBT patients, attitudes toward treating this population, and medically relevant knowledge about their distinct health-related issues.

Methods: In August 2012, students at 6 COMs were sent an e-mail invitation that contained basic information about the study and a link providing access to an anonymous Web-based survey. Standard scales used in previous studies were compiled and individualized into 130 items for the purposes of the present study.

Results: Of the 4112 osteopathic medical students contacted, 1698 (41.3%) entered the survey and 1335 (32.5%) completed it. Two hundred respondents (15%) self-identified as having a sexual orientation on the lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) spectrum. Although respondents generally had favorable levels of acceptance of LGBT patients and positive attitudes toward treatment of this population, self-identified LGB students had even greater acceptance of LGBT patients (P<.001) and more positive attitudes toward their treatment (P<.001). When medically relevant knowledge of issues related to the health of LGBT patients was assessed, 125 respondents (12.9%) obtained a passing score of 7 or higher, with LGB students scoring significantly higher than students whose self-identified sexual orientation was heterosexual only (P=.01). Differences in the levels of acceptance of (P=.008), treatment attitudes toward (P=.001), and relevant medical knowledge (P=.05) pertaining to LGBT patients were noted between respondents from the 6 COMs.

Conclusions: The results suggest that even though osteopathic medical students had mostly positive personal attitudes and treatment attitudes toward LGBT patients, some disparities were still present. Also, students lacked adequate knowledge of the unique medical issues faced by the LGBT population. In the future, students should be given more training to effectively treat LGBT patients and their health-related issues.

Read Full Article