There are more than 100 specialties in the field of medicine. However, few providers and clinics focus their care on the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer) community.
LGBT Community Health Centers operate in only 37 of the 50 states, and many of those do not offer comprehensive services. A lack of access to care, or a previous negative experience, can keep people of the LGBTQ community from seeking medical treatment, which can cause long term health consequences.
A new health clinic in Milwaukee wants to change that. The Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Inclusion Health Clinic opens Monday, and it’s the first in the region to offer an outpatient program tailored to the full range of healthcare needs of the LGBTQ Community.
"If we want to improve the health of this community, we want to provide a place where we can give people a welcoming and affirming environment and also the expertise that they need to get health care that will improve their overall health and outcomes," says Dr. Andrew Petroll, medical director of the Inclusion Clinic.
According to Petroll, avoiding care can lead to health disparities in the LGBTQ community such as an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections.
"In this population there are certain types of screening tests which may be more appropriate or certain types of preventive measures like vaccinations or certain medications," he says.
The Inclusion Clinic, which is staffed by Medical College of Wisconsin physicians along with advanced practice and registered nurses with experience caring for LGBTQ patients, will include a full spectrum of primary and preventive care.
Petroll notes that care is a "mixed picture" for the LGBTQ community. "Sometimes people just don't know where they can find care that they'll feel comfortable with, and sometimes they may feel comfortable but they may be missing out on some of the aspects of care that they need."
The goal of the Inclusion Clinic is to create life-long health for all of its patients with services ranging from obstetrics and gynecology, HIV prevention and specialty care, gender affirming care including hormone therapy, psychiatric care, to family planning.
The Inclusion Clinic is not just an opportunity to welcome new patients, says Petroll, but a crucial learning experience for medical students to go beyond their minimal training in LGBTQ care.
"In general, training on the subject of LGBT health is not great in medical schools overall," he notes. "In the four years of medical school training, the average number of hours spent on LGBTQ health was five hours."
Petroll notes that the Inclusion Clinic will be constantly growing and accepting feedback from its patients in order to better serve the LGBTQ community. "We have all these types of specialists at our disposal in our institution, so we really wanted to leverage that and provide the broadest level of coverage," he says.