The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is the first academic health center in the country to launch the American Medical Association Foundation’s LGBTQ+ Fellowship. This fellowship is aimed at transforming the health equity landscape for the LGBTQ+ community.
“The focus of this innovative fellowship is to integrate primary care and public health to optimize the health of LGBTQ+ and gender expansive individuals and to advance LGBTQ+ health equity,” Dr. Elizabeth M. Petty, the principal investigator and director of the AMA Foundation’s LGBTQ+ Health Fellowship Program, said in an interview with The Daily Cardinal.
The first fellow will start their training for the year-long program in July 2022. Additional scholarships will be available for fellows who want to extend their training beyond one year. The program will accept an additional fellow each year thereafter, with the aim of recruiting “three fellows per year annually by the fifth year,” according to the news release.
Fellows will be physicians who have completed primary care residencies, have a passion to care for LGBTQ individuals, gender diverse communities and health equity. Petty said that the two physicians were identified through a national robust application and recruitment process.
“Fellows will interact on a daily basis with faculty members and other learners, including fellows, across all primary care fields,” Petty told the Cardinal. “They will also regularly interact with clinicians and learners in other specialties.”
Over the course of four years, the AMA foundation will donate $750,000 to fund an advanced fellowship training program for physicians in primary care, which will help optimize the health of LGBTQ patients. According to Petty, the fellowship is structured to help current doctors pass on what they learn to the incoming medical team members.
“The fellowship is designed to be highly individualized and flexible with a core framework to advance skills and knowledge in LGBTQ+ health to build their clinical and scholarly expertise in this area so they will be future national leaders advancing LGBTQ+ health,” she said.
The fellowship will consist of three domains: clinical and specialty care experiences working with LGBTQ and gender diverse individuals; scholarships that may include research, innovative teaching and/or producing resources; and working in partnership with community groups to help address identified patients' needs.
According to Dr. Alexander Camacho of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the LGBTQ community faces challenges that prevent them from attaining proper healthcare. Camacho’s report found that members of the LGBTQ community have been less likely to go to the doctor when facing medical health problems because of the lack of inclusion and LGBTQ diversity that is presented in medical facilities. The AMA Fellowship is working to educate medical workers and allow any person to be able to receive medical assistance without feelings of discrimination.
Petty reflected on the healthcare system in Madison, Wis.
“We are fortunate here that our health system, UW Health, has been a recognized ‘LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader’ for a number of years, including 2022, by the Human Rights Campaign. UW Health has been diligent [in] building affirming gender services programs [and] hiring world-class experts to deliver patient care,” she said. “Our fellows will definitely benefit from working with those faculty members.”
There are many organizations partnering with the AMA Foundation funded LGBTQ+ Fellowship to integrate primary care and public health to optimize the health of LGBTQ and gender expansive individuals.
According to Petty, the main goals of the scholarly collaborative fellowship serve as a foundation for the purpose in making a more inclusive medical space. These goals include: building on the existing LGBTQ support foundations and inclusion programs, an increase in education and research that assist care services in achieving equality for LGBTQ and gender diverse individuals and to emerge as a nationally prominent medicine fellowship program that advances on health equity.
The AMA Foundation funded LGBTQ+ Fellowship is one that is full of dedicated members who are working to make a change for the better in the medical system.
“The staff and faculty are incredibly talented and deeply committed members who have significant expertise in LGBTQ+ health, affirming gender care, education and diversity, equity and inclusion work to be part of the leadership team,” Petty said. “They have played critically important instrumental roles in developing this fellowship–from helping to conceive and develop the proposal to creating, and ultimately, implementing the curriculum and scholarly projects.”
The hope is to eradicate any further discrimination and health disparities for LGBTQ and gender diverse individuals. Petty stated that one of her goals for the future is that the fellowship will continue to grow and provide meaningful community engagement and impact in this region and across the country.
“The goal is to extend educational opportunities across all health professions, develop successful fellow-to-faculty pathways, have a diverse cohort of fellows that advance health equity broadly, become a model for, partner with, newly established fellowship programs across the country and provide notable clinical, academic and public health advances that shape the future of LGBTQ+ and gender affirming health care across diverse rural and urban communities in Wisconsin and beyond.”