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LGBT physicians less likely to pursue high-income specialties; face unique professional barriers

“LGBT physicians may be less likely to pursue competitive, high-income specialties and face unique professional barriers that may limit their visibility, including higher levels of mistreatment during medical training, fears of discrimination in residency applications and job placement, and discrimination from patients.”

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Because lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals experience numerous health care disparities, “workforce diversity is essential to ensure a pipeline of physicians equipped through personal experiences and diverse learning environments to improve care for all populations”. However, according to a new study, “LGBT physicians may be less likely to pursue competitive, high-income specialties and face unique professional barriers that may limit their visibility, including higher levels of mistreatment during medical training, fears of discrimination in residency applications and job placement, and discrimination from patients.”

The study – “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Identity and Disclosure Among Dermatologists in the US” by Matthew D. Mansh, MD; Erica Dommasch, MD, MPH; J. Klint Peebles, MD; et al – appeared in JAMA Dermatology.

For this study, the researchers used data from an American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) member satisfaction survey to assess LGBT identity and disclosure among US dermatologists. Of the 10 ,060 dermatologists who received the AAD survey, 1,339 (13.3%) completed it. This study included 1,271 of the 1,339 survey respondents (94.9%); 47 (3.7% [95% CI, 2.7%-4.9%]) identified as LGBT.

“Compared with the result of a recent Gallup survey of 15 349 adults among the general adult population, in which 4.9% of men and 6.9% of women identify as LGBT, our data suggest that LGBT women may be underrepresented among… dermatologists,” the researchers noted.

They also lamented that few comparative data exist in other specialties, even if 3.0% of American Academy of Family Physicians members identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB),and 9.9% of American Academy of Neurology members were found to identify as LGB, queer, or questioning. 

“In the training pipeline, LGB women may also be underrepresented in undergraduate medical training, and dermatology currently has the lowest percentage of female medical students pursuing the specialty who identify as LGB,” the researchers added.

The study similarly stressed that most LGBT dermatologists reported not disclosing their sexual orientation to patients, and only 1 in 5 reported disclosing it to their colleagues at work. “This lack of disclosure may be related to fears of discrimination, which likely has adverse effects on physicians’ well-being and may limit their visibility to patients,” the researchers noted.

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