Are we being inclusive of our LGBTQ doctors?

By Kristen Fuller, MD | Fact-checked by MDLinx staff
Published July 1, 2022

Key Takeaways

There’s a lot we don’t know about doctors who identify as LGBTQ.

LGBTQ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

We don't know how many LGBTQ doctors there are, what specialties they're in, or where they practice.

As physicians, we’re often so focused on the inclusion of our LGBTQ patient population, but we’re behind in discussing LGBTQ medical students and physicians.

It’s time to have that discussion, and consider how we can better support our LGBTQ colleagues in the medical workplace.

The numbers

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has only recently started to collect information pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity from medical students.[] Since 2016, the organization has included two sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) questions in its annual Matriculating Student Questionnaire and Medical School Graduation Questionnaire.

From 2017 to 2019, the percentage of graduating medical students identifying as bisexual increased from 4.2% to 5%, and those who identified as gay or lesbian increased from 3.6% to 3.8%.

The number of graduating medical students who had a different gender than that assigned at birth increased from 0.6% to 0.7%.

Currently, the AAMC does not consider LGBTQ residency and medical school applicants to quality for underrepresented in medicine (UIM) status.[]

Being eligible to identify as UIM does not influence admission decisions, but it does help medical schools identify students from communities that are economically disadvantaged or who are underrepresented minorities.

Memories from an LGBTQ physician

A physician who identifies as LGBTQ shared their story for Real Talk to shed light on the challenges people who identify this way may encounter in our industry:

As an LGBTQ medical student, I wanted to match into an LGBTQ-friendly residency program where the LGBTQ patient population was supported, and LGBTQ faculty served in leadership positions to be more inclusive to residents.

When applying for residency, I would ask during my interviews, "Since I identify as an LGBTQ medical student, I am curious if there are any LGBTQ faculty in leadership positions in your health sciences center, hospital, or department?"

My question was often followed by blank stares and "I am not sure," quickly followed by how the residency program has a robust and inclusive LGBTQ patient population, compelling academic curriculum, and exceptional clinical experiences.

But unfortunately, not one individual could point me toward an openly LGBTQ physician on faculty who could serve as a role model for LGBTQ medical students and residents.

Time for a change

Through talking about this subject openly and then actively changing how we view LGBTQ medical school and residency applicants and practicing physicians, we can ensure the allocation of resources in support of future LGBTQ applicants throughout the medical school and residency application process.

More importantly, such change will allow future LGBTQ applicants to serve our community openly and proudly without fear of stigma or discrimination.

"Concealing one's identity can significantly negatively affect your physical and mental well-being."

Kristen Fuller, MD

If you search online for the keywords "LGBTQ physicians," a plethora of information comes up about physicians who are LGBTQ-inclusive for their patient population. But where are sites that give information on physicians who identify as LGBTQ?

This information is not yet readily available. Why is this?

Is it because physicians are not yet ready to publicly identify as LGBTQ? Is it because organizations such as the AAFP, ACOG, and AAMC have yet to identify the needs of the LGBTQ healthcare community?

Or is it because we, as a medical society, are just not yet ready to talk about this due to fear of public stigma and judgment?

Furthermore, would LGBTQ patients be more open to discussing their orientation if they knew their physician identified as LGBTQ? And would LGBTQ patients search for physicians who identified as LGBTQ?

These are the questions we need to ponder—and the situations we need to improve—as we strive to make the healthcare industry more open and inclusive for our physician colleagues of all orientations.

What do you think? I welcome your thoughts, opinions, and discussions on this topic on this page, or via email to

Read Next: 3 LGBTQ+ physicians worth celebrating

Each week in our "Real Talk" series, mental health advocate Kristen Fuller, MD, shares straight talk about situations that affect the mental and emotional health of today's healthcare providers. Each column offers key insights to help you navigate these challenging experiences. We invite you to submit a topic you'd like to see covered.

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