The American Medical Association Foundation (AMA Foundation) today announced the University of Wisconsin–Madison as the inaugural institution of its National LGBTQ+ Fellowship Program to begin transforming the health equity landscape for the LGBTQ+ community. Launched with a $750,000 grant from the AMA Foundation, the program will revolutionize health care for LGBTQ+ individuals by providing advanced fellowship training for physicians— who are “first-contact” doctors for their patients’ medical needs — in ways to optimize the health of LGBTQ+ patients. The ultimate goal of the program is to ensure that all LGBTQ+ patients receive the highest standards of care.
Today’s announcement marks the first chapter in the Fellowship Program’s nationwide effort to train hundreds of fellows, while developing multi-disciplinary standards of care for LGBTQ+ health to educate the next generation of physician leaders. The result will be a workforce of LGBTQ+ health specialists and a rich body of knowledge that can be passed on to all medical schools and health care professionals by establishing best practices in caring for LGBTQ+ patients.
In a stringent peer-reviewed process, the AMA Foundation selected the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health for the award due to its extensive multidisciplinary network of institutional and community leaders with expertise in LGBTQ+ health. The school’s interdisciplinary collaborative fellowship will build on existing foundations of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies that support affirming LGBTQ+ services and will accelerate education, research, and clinical initiatives. The first fellow will be recruited to begin their training in July 2022. Fellows will have opportunities to extend their training beyond one year to do additional scholarship to advance LGBTQ+ health equity. The program will accept one fellow each year thereafter, with a goal of recruiting three fellows per year annually by the fifth year.
“This program is the AMA Foundation’s response to the urgent need to address the systemic health inequities and lack of quality medical care for LGBTQ+ patients,” said John D. Evans, chair of the AMA Foundation Fellowship Commission on LGBTQ+ Health. “The LGBTQ+ community is widely diverse, and for those members of the community who are also members of other marginalized groups–such as people of color, people with disabilities and those living in rural communities–the outcomes are exponentially worse. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the health care inequities for LGBTQ+ people of color and other marginalized communities as those groups received inconsistent and inadequate care and representation throughout the pandemic.“
The AMA Foundation is uniquely positioned to dramatically accelerate the pace of change in improving the health of and health care for LGBTQ+ patients. One in five LGBTQ+ adults avoid medical care due to fear of discrimination and one-third of medical schools spent zero hours teaching LGBTQ+ health. The AMA Foundation will serve as a convening force to bring together leaders in the LGBTQ+ community, health care, medical education, community organizations, and advocacy groups with fellows and partnering institutions.
With the vision and support of the LGBTQ+ Honor Fund Founding Donors, and under the direction of the AMA Foundation Board, the AMA Foundation Fellowship Commission on LGBTQ+ Health — a collaborative of LGBTQ+ thought leaders, educational specialists, physicians and philanthropists led by John D. Evans — provides oversight on the development of the Fellowship Program. This group conducted a rigorous peer review and analysis of the many exceptional proposals submitted for consideration.
Bringing a wealth of knowledge and expertise in LGBTQ+ health, Elizabeth Petty, M.D., Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, will oversee the program at the school.
“We envision a future where LGBTQ+ and gender diverse patient populations experience optimal health and feel accepted and supported by health care providers who are well-versed in both general and unique medical needs of LGBTQ+ patients,” said Petty. “We have much ground to cover before we reach this goal, as far too many LGBTQ+ patients in our society currently experience oppression, stigma, lack of support, lack of medical understanding, and discrimination when seeking care, which leads to unacceptable and life-threatening health disparities. Our team is deeply committed to changing that narrative.”
“Disparities in the health of and care for LGBTQ people have been widely reported, and we are excited that the new AMA Foundation National LGBTQ+ Fellowship Program can help motivate and prepare doctors and medical institutions to improve outcomes for LGBTQ+ and other vulnerable populations,” said Shilpen Patel, M.D., Immediate Past Chair of the AMA’s Advisory Committee on LGBTQ Issues. “The fellowship program being launched by UW–Madison has the great potential to transform care and the outcomes associated with care for LGBTQ+ people throughout the country as additional institutions leverage the learnings gained through this innovative program.”
“I am deeply grateful to the AMA Foundation for their recognition of the urgent need to address these important health equity issues,” said Petty. “I look forward to working with them as well as our amazing team of champions for LGBTQ+ health equity in Wisconsin and beyond.”
This initiative builds on the work of the AMA Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative launched in 2013 to create the medical school of the future and address the growing gap between how physicians are being trained and the skills they’ll need to practice in modern health systems. The AMA will continue its efforts to drive the future of medicine by reimagining medical education, training and lifelong learning — ensuring physicians are better equipped to provide care in the rapidly-evolving health care environment. Additionally, this AMA Foundation LGBTQ+ Fellowship Program is in full alignment with the AMA’s strategic plan to embed racial justice and advance health equity, this which serves as a three-year roadmap to plant the initial seeds for action and accountability to embed racial justice and advance health equity as we strive for optimal health for all.