Massachusetts Medical Society: Committee on LGBTQ Matters Celebrates 15 Years of Advocacy, Growth, and Community

Committee on LGBTQ Matters Celebrates 15 Years of Advocacy, Growth, and Community

BY ERIN TALLY, SENIOR MEMBER RELATIONS ADMINISTRATOR

The MMS Committee on LGBTQ Matters hit its stride with an impactful year and strong voice in MMS policymaking and advocacy, vibrant committee participation, and a planned return to in-person gatherings this fall.

During the 15 years since its creation, the committee has provided an accepting, supportive environment for LGBTQ physicians and an important avenue for Massachusetts physicians interested in LGBTQ topics. For many, it has been a springboard for wider involvement in organized medicine in Massachusetts and beyond.

Dr. Aditya Chandrasekhar
Dr. Aditya Chandrasekhar

“The Committee on LGBTQ Matters has provided me, and other MMS physicians like me, with a welcoming professional space that is often lacking in health care spaces,” says Committee Chair Aditya Chandrasekhar, MD. His first introduction to the MMS as a resident physician was the committee’s annual fall social gathering, and he describes the enriching experience that followed. “The breadth of expertise and geographical reach of my fellow committee members is something I lean on both within and outside of the MMS,” he says. “The committee works exceptionally well as a platform for both advocacy and networking.”

A Need Identified, Followed by Booming Growth and Purpose

Initially, the committee began when young MMS members identified that a voice was missing in the MMS committee structure. The Medical Student and Resident/Fellow Sections, with the Committee on Young Physicians, put forth a resolution at the 2007 MMS Interim Meeting to establish the Special Committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Patients and Physicians to broaden MMS outreach and provide advice to the Society on matters affecting the LGBTQ community. The committee was initially led by then-resident Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD (who later became MMS speaker of the House of Delegates [HOD]), and medical student Matthew Grierson. Their careers have led them to other states, but each remains active in advocacy and organized medicine.

Dr. Marian Craighill
Dr. Marian Craighill

Marian Craighill, MD, MPH, an original committee member, notes that the past 15 years “represent a time in which there have been very major shifts in how ‘safe’ it has felt to be identified as part of this group.” She feared that her boss and colleagues might become aware of her involvement. Yet just a few years later, her workplace required diversity training that included being LGBTQ-sensitive and inclusive, with sanctions for homophobic behavior. By the time Dr. Craighill became committee chair in 2010, “things had evolved quickly and being open at work felt safe. With these changing societal values, I saw a very strong blooming of young people who became involved in the committee.”

In 2010, the committee held a dinner at a popular gay Boston night club and the event “grew by leaps and bounds every year as more Boston-area health professionals were openly out,” Craighill notes. “It has also helped to raise the Medical Society’s visibility within the community.”

Dr. Carl Streed
Dr. Carl Streed

A more recent former chair and current member, Carl Streed, MD, describes the professional advantages. “As a trainee new to Massachusetts in 2016, the Committee on LGBTQ Matters allowed me to continue to build a career and professional identity in LGBTQ health,” he says. “It has served for me and countless trainees in the Commonwealth and beyond as a hub for mentorship, collaboration, and support.”

Now named the Committee on LGBTQ Matters, it has been a consistent contributor at the MMS Interim and Annual Meetings by proposing policy to educate physicians and advocate for the unique needs of LGBTQ physicians and patients.

Successful Advocacy for All Physicians and Patients

Before the committee’s establishment, the MMS had no policy relating to physicians and patients who identify in the LGBTQ community. This policy gap has been filled quickly since. Numerous policies now on the books relate to the following topics:

  • Health care needs of sex-, sexual-, and gender-diverse communities
  • Bullying
  • Physician education in LGBTQ health
  • Appropriate placement of transgender prisoners
  • Hate violence
  • Military/medical policies affecting transgender individuals
  • Support for transgenders individuals’ use of restroom of choice
  • Evidence-based care of individuals born with differences in sex development (DSD)/intersex
  • Data collection that includes sexually- and gender-diverse populations
  • Calling for medical school education that incorporates LGBTQ student and patient needs into the curricula
  • Create and distribute office displays of the MMS-sponsored non-discrimination statement
  • Educating physicians about cervical screening in female-to-male transgender patients

The committee continues to be vibrant and very active, easily reaching a quorum for 100% of all meetings this year, which speaks to the important role it continues to serve the Medical Society and the Commonwealth.

“The ongoing success of this committee demonstrates the need and the pervasive nature of issues concerning so many individuals, including physicians and families,” says MMS President Carole E. Allen, MD, MBA, FAAP, who has been a member (or advisor) to the Committee on LGBTQ Matters for nearly all of its history. “The committee’s work has made Massachusetts a safer and more inclusive place for many health professionals and for patients across the age spectrum.”

In late April, the committee lost one of its earliest, staunchest champions, Barbara Herbert, MD, who served on the committee from 2007 to 2016. The MMS mourns her passing and recognizes her contributions.

Taking a Stand on National Issues

Recently, the committee partnered with Dr. Allen and other MMS leaders to take a public stance on policies — nationally or in other states — that are discriminatory to LGBTQ people. The Medical Society, working with Fenway Health in late March, urged the US Food and Drug Administration “to revoke its policy on unnecessary scrutiny and subsequent exclusion of men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood — a simple, safe step that will expand a blood supply that is perilously low across all health care settings.” Read full statement.

A month earlier, the MMS condemned new Texas policies regarding transgender children and families as “misguided and discriminatory attacks on the health of transgender children and associated threats against families who love and support their children.”

After these actions in Texas, the LGBTQ Matters Committee submitted policy to the 2022 Annual Meeting of the MMS HOD to strengthen current MMS policy. The proposed policy, Health Care Needs of Sex-, Sexual-, and Gender-Diverse (SSGD) Communities, affirms that gender, sex, and sexuality diversity are normal parts of human variation and that SSGD patients have diverse experiences, barriers, and needs that may be influenced by their gender, sex, and sexual orientation, as well as other aspects of their lives.

LGBTQ Health Disparities Grants to Medical Students, Residents, and/or Fellows

In 2016, the committee began the LGBTQ Research Grant pilot program to encourage and incorporate cultural competency training early in medical education and to improve health care quality, access, and equity for LGBTQ patients. The successful pilot led to a permanent program in 2019. Grant recipients have used funds to attend conferences; develop curricula for their medical schools, residencies, and fellowships; and support novel LGBTQ health services and disparities research.

The MMS committees on LGBTQ Matters and on Medical Education continue to evaluate and revise the grant selection to ensure diversity of grantees and sustainability of research and programming. The program, says Craighill, engages students and residents while also providing clinical opportunities to underserved populations in this area. “This also helped foster a new phalanx of young leadership to carry on the committee work,” she adds.

Save the Date: 2022 LGBTQ Awards Ceremony and Networking Event on September 14

The MMS Committee on LGBTQ Matters will host the 2022 LGBTQ Awards Ceremony and Networking Event at Lookout Farm Brewing and Cider in Natick on September 14, 2022. The committee looks forward to gathering in person and honoring recent recipients of the annual LGBTQ Health Award: Valerie Stone, MD, MPH, MACP (2020); Jennifer Potter, MD (2021); and Andrew Jorgensen, MD, FAAP, FACP (2022). All are welcome to attend.

Join the MMS Committee on LGBTQ Matters!

For information on the committee or its activities, email etally@mms.org.

Share on Facebook
Future Health Best Right Rail
Become A Member
Member Benefits
Facebook logoTwitter logoLinkedInYouTube logoInstagram

Copyright © 2022. Massachusetts Medical Society, 860 Winter Street, Waltham Woods Corporate Center, Waltham, MA 02451-1411

(781) 893-4610 | (781) 893-3800 | Member Information Hotline: (800) 322-2303 x7311