Volume 93, Issue 73

Wednesday, February 9, 2000


Public library moves to mall

New degrees fall under community microscope

Gay meds face classroom barriers

No cheering as hackers shut down internet search engine

HRDC grant money questioned


Back Asswards

Caught on campus

Gay meds face classroom barriers

By Paul-Mark Rendon
Gazette Staff

A study from McMaster University is calling on medical schools across the nation to foster a more sensitive and comfortable atmosphere for gay and lesbian doctors-in-training.

The five year study was conducted by McMaster's family medical department and reported on quality of life and education issues for gay and lesbian medical students, said Cathy Risdon, the study's lead researcher.

Risdon said study followed the classroom experiences of 29 gay and lesbian medical students across the country who reported less than favourable results. "Essentially, we found that gay and lesbian students were discounting a med school education because they couldn't be a medical physician and at the same time be gay," she said, explaining students felt pressure to withhold their sexual identity for fear of academic repercussions.

Medical schools will be left to act on the study's findings and do what they felt was necessary to break down any barriers, Risdon said, adding the study would be published in this month's edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Bev Richardson, a professor of family medicine with the University of Toronto medical school, said she would consider conducting a similar study at U of T. "This will be a benchmark to be able to address this issue," she said. Richardson added measures to combat homophobia in classrooms at U of T included a Diversity in Medicine committee, which holds workshops to address potential barriers.

"I didn't know when I came in, what an ivory tower med school is and how conservative this entire profession is," said Evan Adams, a first-year medical student at the University of Calgary.

Adams said although he has always insisted on being open about his homosexuality, some of his gay and lesbian peers have not been so confident – and for serious reasons. "They feel sexuality issues can interfere with their assessments, or doctors can easily focus on their sexual identity rather than their medical ability," he said.

The problem is not rooted in a lack of outlets at medical schools, but in social attitudes, said Douglass Drozdow-St. Christian, a professor of anthropology at Western. "If we look at it from a political and social perspective, doctors have tended to be socially conservative as a group.

Risdon said although the small number of respondents could be seen as a flaw, it did not affect the study's intended goal. "We thought this was a real issue where quantitative results were not adequate. We had to focus on a qualitative study to get some more info on what has tended to be an invisible group on campuses," she said.

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