Cultivating the Next Generation of LGBTQ-Inclusive Physicians
Veronica Lewalski, co-president of Wayne State University’s LGBTQ People in Medicine club, is making good on her promise to educate fellow medical students in LGBTQ-affirming healthcare.
In her role, Lewalski works to promote a student platform that advances the relationship between LGBTQ patients and the healthcare system through educational workshops, speaking engagements and volunteer opportunities. Training students to leave medical school as “well-rounded, culturally competent physicians” is one of the group’s biggest priorities, Lewalski said.
“I got involved last year just through going to some meetings held by the group,” Lewalski said. “I viewed the group meetings as a setting that I could feel comfortable being myself so I could meet like-minded people to build friendships with, and I also saw the opportunity to learn more about and reach out to the local LGBTQ community.”
In just her second year at the university, WSU’s School of Medicine is already feeling the impact of Lewalski and her team’s hard work. Most notably, this past year LGBTQ People in Medicine helped establish a relationship with the new LGBTQ Corktown Health Center to provide WSU students on-the-ground training opportunities.
“We have worked extensively with Dr. Latonya Riddle-Jones and Patrick Yankee of Corktown Health Center so we can start bringing in students to work at the clinic next year,” Lewalski said. “Overall, we worked to establish Corktown Health Center as a place that students can gain practical knowledge on the unique and important aspects of healthcare pertaining to the LGBTQ community.”
Opened in the summer of 2017, Corktown Health Center is Michigan’s first nonprofit program focused on the health needs of the LGBTQ community. Corktown services include integrated HIV care, behavioral and substance abuse programs, as well as breast and cervical cancer prevention and screenings for lesbian and bisexual women.
“Year one and two students will have the opportunity to volunteer at the clinic as HIV testers and counselors, as well as the opportunity to shadow a physician working with LGBTQ+ patients,” Lewalski told BTL. “Year three students will be able to work at Corktown as our continuity clinic – this is a part of our curriculum in which year three students work at a primary care facility one day per week for about five or six months.”
LGBTQ People in Medicine recently held a fundraiser for Corktown in which they sold gay pride lapel pins to students and physicians that can be worn to identify themselves as queer allies to patients. All proceeds from the pins, as well as some T-Shirts, were donated to Corktown.
Outside of the Corktown collaboration, Lewalski and her team also educate students through their partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“A couple times per year, we bring the MDHHS to train groups of students to be certified HIV counselors,” Lewalski said. “Students can then volunteer with Unified or at the Emergency Department of Detroit Receiving as testers and counselors.”
LGBTQ People in Medicine makes it a priority to connect with undergraduate students too, Lewalski said, starting at the beginning of the year with a lecture for first-year medical students.
Hosted by the former president of LGBT People in Medicine, the talk centers around general LGBTQ education and is followed up by a Q&A session from a panel of LGBTQ people. “Students can ask questions and discuss problems we face in healthcare on a daily basis,” Lewalski said.
LGBTQ People in Medicine continues providing educational workshops throughout the year in an effort to keep students up to date with the latest research. This past March, Lewalski led a journal club where students discussed a research article on HPV and cervical cancer for transgender men. Other workshops currently being planned will feature outside speakers and focus on “practical experience.”
In all of her work with student organization thus far, Lewalski is proudest of the feedback she’s received from her student community. “Some of the most fulfilling moments are after I lead a discussion or give a talk on LGBTQ+ health, and students approach me afterwards to thank me for bringing issues that aren’t usually talked about to light,” she said.
“I have seen other students gain a great interest in inclusive and culturally-competent healthcare just as that fire was sparked in me last year, and I’m incredibly proud to hand off the torch to the next group of students,” she continued. “I can see how much healthcare education is growing and changing.”
Veronica’s Tools of Engagement
Corktown Health Center
Wayne State University School of Medicine
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Connect with Veronica Lewalski at [email protected]
This article originally appeared in Pride Source Magazine. Between The Lines interviewed seven young LGBTQ people and allies who have grabbed ahold of their “Tools of Engagement,” and with their confidence have become role models and leaders building positive networks and influencing others.