LGBTQ+ Community and Healthcare

Dr. Tim Brown is on a mission to bring equality to LGBTQ+ healthcare

One in four.

That is how many members of the LGBTQ+ community reported experiencing discrimination in healthcare according to the Center for American Progress.

Dr. Tim Brown, PharmD, BCACP, has been on a mission his entire career to curb that statistic and make healthcare easily accessible and stigma-free for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Practicing for 26 years as a primary care provider in family medicine allowed me to expand my care to those from the LGBTQ+ community,” said Brown. “We (Cleveland Clinic Akron General) were one of the first practices to be designated an ally practice so LGBTQ+ patients knew they were in a safe space and would be treated with respect by everyone in the office from the front desk check in to the provider.”

Members of the LGBTQ+ community also face stereotyping in healthcare. This can be something as simple as a provider assuming a patient’s sexuality or when a provider assumes their patient who doesn’t want to be on birth control is straight or even when a physician asks a male patient about his wife.

But some members of the LGBTQ+ community face an even bigger disparity—access to care itself. Twenty-nine percent of transgender adults reported to the Center for American Progress that a healthcare provider refused to see them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Disparity in access to care is the one of the biggest gaps. Many providers are unsure or do not know the specific needs of patients that identify as LGBTQ+ so they hesitate to welcome them to their practice. Access to care should be one of those aspects of living in America that is just understood, and the fact that people are turned away from a medical practice based on being gay, transgender, lesbian, etc. astounds me,” said Brown. “Since this does occur more frequently than we realize, many people must find a healthcare provider they can trust so they may be transparent about their needs without being judged.”

Brown has also been a champion for preventing diseases that affect the LGBTQ+ community more than their heterosexual counterparts.

“I was one of the first practitioners to start offering PREP to prevent HIV and worked with others to educate physicians about sexual history taking, why honest documentation reduces medical errors, and how to manage patients on hormone therapy,” he said. “In addition, I have had the opportunity to lead national discussions on providing care to members of this population and have served on several organizational boards that represent those living with HIV.”

Brown came to the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership in September of 2019 and has worked to incorporate LGBTQ+ health and education into the curriculum.

“We have added clinical case-based scenarios that are diverse and certainly contain representation of the LGBTQ+ population,” said Brown. “In addition, large group discussions were broadened to include topics that directly impact marginalized populations with LGBTQ+ being one of those targeted.”

Brown has even helped to implemented events and programs that have members of the LGBTQ+ community come to campus to participate in panel discussions regarding their experiences in healthcare.

“We added a panel consisting of people living with HIV to the second-year curriculum to help students gain insight on how healthcare continues to make advances in managing this disease and what these patients have been through, some for more than 30 years,” said Brown. “We have also invited members of the LGBTQ+ population to participate in a panel discussion with our students. This combination of community members allows the students to interact, ask questions, and learn from a cross section of patients that will be caring for from the LGBTQ+ population.”

Brown said introducing students to this side of healthcare opens their eyes to challenges that the LGBTQ+ community faces and allows them to be familiar with the community before fully entering the medical field.

“By creating opportunities within our curriculum for our students to interact with and hear from members of this community, it allows the student to understand some the obstacles these patients face,” said Brown. “By doing this, we heighten awareness of these future physicians but also prepare them for caring for LGBTQ+ patients and creating an environment that welcomes all members of society. In the end it’s this relationship building that results in more well-rounded physicians and healthier members in our communities.”

Future plans include an April community healthcare provider panel. The panel will feature providers from the area who are caring for members of the LGBTQ+ community. There are also plans to host a talk focusing on gender-affirming care.

Brown is also the advisor for the Medical Partnership’s LGBTQ+ interest group.

“This interest group was initiated by the students to assist medical students in preparing to meet the unique healthcare needs of the members of the LGBTQ+ community. In addition, the interest group promotes advocacy and outreach to the community,” said Brown.

“Our purpose is to bring attention to the care of LGBTQ+ patients and provide opportunities to practice care with LGBTQ+ patients,” said the interest group’s president, Caitrin Carroll. “It’s important to have this interest group because addressing a person as a whole, recognizing all aspects of their identity, is critical to effective care and creates a better patient/provider relationship.”

One of the interest group’s first acts was selling pride pins to raise money for the Boybutante AIDS Foundation in Athens.

“The Boybutante AIDS Foundation is a small, local, healthcare-related group that, while not LGBTQ+ targeted, is a very LGBTQ+ friendly group that serves many LGBTQ+ people in the area,” said the interest group’s first president, Blaine Spivey.

By the end of April 2021, the group raised more than $660, but they didn’t stop there—they still sell the pins to fundraise for the foundation.

“One thing I really wanted to do with this group was help connect our campus to the local LGBTQ+ community, and one of the easiest ways to do that was to donate money to groups that need it,” said Spivey.

The group also purchased pronoun stickers in conjunction with the OB/GYN interest group. These stickers are free to the Medical Partnership community and can be placed on hospital badges.

Another major project of the group has been Sex History Saturday—a session held once a year every January where recruited members from the community act as patients, and the students take turns interviewing them to strengthen their interview skills when working to obtain a sexual history from a patient they have never met.

“I am honored to be the advisor for a group of students that understands caring for patients involves everyone and making sure to leave their mark while on our campus,” said Brown.

Brown is hoping that incorporating LGBTQ+ health in the learning environment and the culture at the Medical Partnership will make the students more than just better doctors.

“I simply want our students to treat every patient with the same respect yet understand their individual needs,” said Brown. “That’s such a simple statement, but for this to occur, we need to graduate well-rounded, empathetic, intelligent, and caring physicians. By creating that type of learning environment and role modeling what this type of care entails, we are setting the stage for the students to not only be great physicians but amazing people.”

For more information about attending the Medical College of Georgia at the Medical Partnership campus

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