Diversity + Outreach

Connecting with LGBTQ patients

While the fight for equal rights for LGBTQ individuals has made significant strides in the past decade — from the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to the legalization of same-sex marriage — barriers within this community still exist, such as fear of ignorance, discrimination or mistreatment, especially with regard to health care.

As providers, our doctor-patient relationships determine how we acknowledge and remove such barriers. The mere fact that dentists have their hands in their patients’ mouths creates a rather immediate personal relationship, and we can use this as an opportunity to create a comfortable environment where patients can confide in us. To provide the most effective care to the LGBTQ community, clinicians must instill trust within their patients by practicing openness and circumventing topic avoidance when patients disclose sensitive information to us.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, I can attest to the fear associated with being open about my sexuality with health care providers. After coming out to my family, I remember the anxiety I felt trying to decide how or if I was going to do so with my doctors. I knew telling them was the right thing to do, as a means to help them know how to help me. Still, I was afraid of being judged or discriminated against because the relationship I shared with any doctor up until that point was purely professional.

According to the National LGBT Cancer Network, “previous or feared negative responses from health care providers keep too many LGBT individuals from seeking routine care.” The fear of being misunderstood was my barrier.

Continue reading in the current issue of Contour magazine.

~Corey Smigiel, Pennsylvania ’21

Corey Smigiel

Corey Smigiel is currently a second-year student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

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