New student group aims to educate, train on LGBTQ health care

The Sexual and Gender Minority Health Initiative was established this semester to educate individuals about LGBTQ health care.

Norah Kleven

A new University of Minnesota student group has formed around what has become an annual event for LGBTQ health care. 

Founded this semester, the Sexual and Gender Minority Health Initiative aims to advocate for and spread knowledge about best practices related to LGBTQ health care.

Marvin So, a first-year Medical School student and the club’s president, said conversations about forming the group started while planning the annual LGBTQIA+ Symposium, which educates health care providers, community members and University students and faculty on the medical needs of LGBTQ individuals.

Members of the club will receive clinical training and education in LGBTQ health care at meetings and will help plan the annual symposium. SGMHI currently consists of 15 University Medical Students, but So emphasized that the club is open to anyone. 

“Our focus being on training and education of the workforce around LGBTQ health care needs is our unique contribution,” So said. 

The third annual LGBTQIA+ Symposium, which focused on health care for young LGBTQ individuals, was held on Thursday evening at the Mayo Auditorium.

“As we were thinking about where the conversation could really be in the coming year, what really floated to the top of our conversations was the needs of children and youth and the fact that our society’s conception of gender and sexual orientation is really growing and evolving,” So said.

The symposium was founded in 2016 by Kylie Blume, who is now a second-year student in the University’s Medical School. She studies medicine with hopes to go into plastic surgery and gender surgery. It was Blume’s passion for LGBTQ health care that drove her to start the symposium in 2016. 

LGBTQ individuals’ health care needs differ from binary gender needs in terms of hormone care, surgeries, reproductive care and counseling, Blume said.

“Starting this conference was really about helping providers know what they don’t know. I wanted them to walk away with the understanding that it’s important that they know how to treat these patients,” she finished. 

As a transgender woman, Blume said she knows how detrimental it can be to be misunderstood by health care providers and to ultimately feel unwanted as a patient.

“I think what’s important is understanding and respecting your patients,” she added. 

This year’s keynote address was delivered by Erica Anderson, a University alumna and San Francisco-based psychologist who specializes in gender identity.

“We’ve never been in a society where so many young people were claiming a gender other than what was assigned at birth,” Anderson said. “We’ve also never had a culture that was so vigorous about the discussion of these identities.”

Blume praised the leadership of the newly formed student organization, saying they did a “phenomenal” job in organizing this year’s symposium.  

“It’s really a community that’s working hard to change things,” Blume said of the group.