D espite the many strides gained by the LGBTQ+ community in recent years, members of the community still face daily discrimination and harassment, including in the work environment. Within the medical profession, LGBTQ+ surgical residents frequently confront bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination. According to an October 2021 JAMA Surgery study, this disrespectful treatment has prompted more LGBTQ+ surgical residents to ponder leaving residency programs when compared with their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
Yue-Yung Hu, MD, MPH, a pediatric surgeon at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, was among those who researched resident experiences at Northwestern Medicine’s Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center. Dr. Hu and colleagues found that LGBTQ+ residents were more than twice as likely as their non-LGBTQ+ peers to consider leaving residency programs. They also more frequently experienced suicidal thoughts.
Among participants in Dr. Hu’s study, 59.2% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported frequent discrimination, compared with 42.3% of nonLGBTQ cohorts. Nearly 8% more of the latter experienced bullying. Regarding sexual harassment, 47.5% of LGBTQ+ residents reported being victimized, compared with 29.3% of non-LGBTQ+ peers. The study team observed that attending physicians were largely the sources of mistreatment, playing a critical role in residents’ well-being. Being part of a minority community increased the risk of mistreatment, Dr. Hu added.
Increased risk of burnout is also associated with increased frequency of mistreatment. According to an October 2021 JAMA Network Open study, the predicted probability of burnout is eight times higher for lesbian, gay, or bisexual medical students than for heterosexual peers. Burnout due to mistreatment plays a role in LGBTQ+ surgical residents’ decisions to leave residency programs before completion.
Dr. Hu’s work is one of the largest studies researching mistreatment of LGBTQ+ members of the medical education community. In an invited commentary on her study, Minnesotabased trauma and ICU surgeon Michaela West, MD, PhD, highlighted one of the main barriers to mending this situation. The medical community, she says, must first acknowledge that there is, indeed, a problem.
Researchers agree that there is a great need for the development of safer and more inclusive medical education environments. Multifaceted interventions can assist in educating all members of the medical community, helping to increase the safety and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community.