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Queen’s medical students unite to review and improve queer health curriculum 

Queen’s medical curriculum may be overdue for a little touch of colour – a makeover in the shades of the rainbow Pride flag. 

That’s the goal of student researchers looking to increase and enhance 2SLGBTQIA+ representation in Queen's MD pre-clerkship curriculum. This project is led by the QueerMed committee – a student group composed of eight 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and allies. Their goal is to provide recommendations based on evidence and lived experiences of 2SLGBTQIA+ students that will meaningfully improve the curriculum. 

“Digging into the evidence is going to be crucial in ensuring the suggestions that we put forward are based on wider experiences of queer people in Canada and is accurate for years to come,” says first-year student Stephanie Grantham, one of the leads on the project. “We want to make it as widely accessible and appropriate as possible.” 

The curriculum review is among the 2022 EDIIA Studentship Projects that aim to transform Queen’s Health Sciences (QHS) into a more diverse and inclusive community – with a slate of initiatives that reexamine and reimagine the way we learn, teach, research, collaborate, recruit and mentor. Grantham, a self-identifying queer student at Queen’s, knows firsthand the importance of representation in health care and education. 

“As a first-year student at a new school, I initially joined the QueerMed Committee to make new friends and find an accepting community,” Grantham says. “Having upper-year med students as my mentors has been an incredibly inspiring and rewarding experience. Now, I want to give back to the faculty and the community that has bolstered me this year.” 

The committee is currently undertaking the first phase of the project. Since March 2022, the team has been evaluating lectures and curricula for every course the faculty offers. From there, they will decide whether the content does or should relate to social determinants of health for queer patients. 

The next phase of the project will be to go through each of the lectures related to 2SLGBTQIA+ health and determine the areas in which the information either falls short or is entirely sufficient. Once the team completes their curricular review, they intend to construct highly specific evidence-based suggestions on how to make teaching more inclusive for their queer students and colleagues, and moreover, more accurately representative of the Canadian population—one that is increasingly identifying as 2SLGBTQIA+. They plan to share their methods and recommendations with other QHS schools and programs.

Beyond the field of healthcare, QueerMed also believes 2SLGBTQIA+ representation is invaluable for health sciences students. “It is of little consequence whether or not you as a future healthcare provider are queer,” Grantham adds. “We must we familiarize ourselves with the queer community, know and investigate factors of queer health accurately, and are prepared to offer queer patients the exemplary quality of care they deserve.”  

Grantham credits the studentship funding for helping make the group’s project a reality. “Receiving this studentship grant meant that a project that we had on a backburner for years could finally move forward,” she says. “Not only does the grant facilitate our research, but it also validates our project’s importance and relevance from an administrative level —that’s not an altogether common occurrence for student researchers at any institution.” 

QHS’s new strategic plan, Radical Collaboration, includes an emphatic commitment to providing students and faculty with opportunities to enhance Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Indigeneity, and Accessibility both at Queen’s and beyond. 

The QueerMed Committee project follows in the footsteps of another successful student project to improve racial representation in medical school teaching materials and curricula.    

“Because of this opportunity, we have a real say over our own education,” Grantham says. “We have been given a phenomenal chance to build the advocacy skills we will one day need to speak up for our patients and enact policy changes for all equity-deserving Canadians. 

This year’s studentships are generously supported by Dr. Elizabeth Eisenhauer, former Head of the Department of Oncology in the School of Medicine, Queen’s alumni (Meds ‘76), and current Innovation Lead at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, as well as funds from the Departments of Surgery and Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine, and the Bachelor of Health Sciences program. 

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