Fort Worth, Texas – The sixth annual Out For Health, slated for February 1st and 2nd in Fort Worth, is the only LGBT health conference held annually in Texas, and offers training on LGBT issues to medical students, physician’s assistants, nurses, and pharmacist students. Matthew Mitts, a second-year medical student at University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, where this year’s conference will be held, pointed to some alarming statistics that show the need for the conference. Surveys show that one in five LGBT people avoid healthcare because of fear of discrimination. More than 56% of LGB and an astounding 70 percent of trans people report being subjected to discrimination, physical abuse, or having a healthcare professional be afraid to touch them. Also, a majority of physicians are afraid to ask a patient about their sexual orientation, while a majority of LGBT people are comfortable talking about it.

According to Vic Holmes, a family practice physician’s assistant and assistant professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, there isn’t an LGBT awareness track in medical schools. Holmes’s track at Out For Health is creating a welcoming environment for the LGBT community. He said one way to indicate to LGBT patients that your office welcomes them as patients is by leaving items in the waiting room that indicate the practice is affirming. That might include brochures on lesbian health or transgender health. It might include a rainbow pin worn by a receptionist. Photos around the waiting room might include same-sex couples. “That says a lot to people who need to see them,” Holmes said. The best way for medical professionals to learn their patient’s needs, he said, is to have a conversation with your patient, not a confrontation.

Mitts said the conference will include 14 different talks about issues related to the LGBT community, including geriatric care, pediatrics, and mental health. He said one thing healthcare providers who work with LGBT patients definitely need to understand is PrEP for preventing HIV. Several workshops will deal with management of transgender patients. (Dallas Voice – David Taffet at Dallasvoice.com/be-out-to-be-healthy)

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