Professors at the Texas A&M University College of Dentistry are teaming up with students and colleagues at all of Texas A&M Health’s professional schools to develop an interprofessional LGBTIQ+ health curriculum. A first in Texas, the curriculum will be designed to better equip professional healthcare students with the skills needed to better serve LGBTIQ+ patients.
Dental school professors Matthew Kesterke, PhD, and Faizan Kabani, PhD, RDH, began meeting with representatives from the College of Medicine, College of Nursing, Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Public Health, as well as with the College of Education and the Clinical Resource Center, in March 2019.
Literature suggests that LGBTIQ+ communities experience a disproportionate amount of health inequalities, including negative experiences with some healthcare providers, inadequate health insurance benefits, social violence and bullying, higher psychological distress, and more, Kabani said.
In clinic at the dental school, Kabani said he noticed firsthand how uncomfortable some students were in caring for LGBTIQ+ patients. He saw teachable moments and an opportunity to provide “meaningful conversations on cultural sensitivity and compassion,” he said.
“At first it was disheartening to observe this gap. However, I quickly realized that more organized efforts were needed to help improve the climate at the dental school,” said Kabani, who was named the 2020 Dental Hygiene Teacher of the Year by the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene class of 2020.
“One thing I’m really excited about is we have a number of students involved now, including master’s students, PhD students, and medical students,” Kesterke said. “Getting students involved on ground-level research is very important and it means a lot. All of these colleges are working together.”
Many professional organizations, including the American Dental Education Association, agree that better research and education is needed on the issue, Kabani said.
A 2018 study of about a thousand medical, dental, and nursing students revealed a general consensus that there was a lack of needed training to address health issues in these populations. Although about 70% said they felt comfortable treating LGBTIQ+ patients, less than half believed they received the formal training needed.
Another study found that related healthcare curriculum varied widely from one professional school to the next both in content covered and time invested. Deans at 132 medical schools in the United States and Canada also reported that time dedicated to such training was minimal.
Kesterke and Kabani are working to change that. Their first research project included a survey of Texas A&M Health educators to identify gaps in LGBTIQ+ healthcare education. A second survey will gauge how students have been affected, how well they are taught, and their familiarity with LGBTIQ+ issues.
With the results, the professors hope to coordinate the first interprofessional LGBTIA+ health curriculum at Texas A&M with a goal to expand it across Texas.
“The ultimate goal is to establish the first-ever Texas A&M center for LGBTIA+ health education,” Kesterke said.
Kabani and Kesterke presented their thoughts on interprofessional LGBTIQ+ education at a Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) virtual meeting earlier this summer. They received a warm reception and post-meeting outreach from representatives at major universities across many states, the school said, with many wanting to know how they could use the Texas A&M research to effect change in their own states.