ASGE’s Commitment to Supporting the LGBTQ+ Physicians in GI through Allyship and Education

Read about one association’s efforts to pave the way for equity and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community in medicine.

By Michelle Akers, MBA

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The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) with more than 16,000 members worldwide, recognizes and values the importance of embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This commitment strengthens our organization and enhances our members’ ability to provide excellent care to all patient populations. LGBTQ+ physicians and patients experience discrimination and barriers in the medical community due to a lack of inclusive policies, limited availability of culturally competent providers, and fear of discrimination or mistreatment. As highlighted by Dr. Aayush Gabrani in the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, many LGBTQ+ physicians report social ostracization and harassment, underscoring the need for continued efforts to foster a safe and supportive environment.

Today, we do not know the exact number of physicians who identify as LGBTQ+. However, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) 2023 Matriculating Student Questionnaire, between 2021 and 2023, 3.7% of medical students identified as gay or lesbian, a number that has remained steady over the past three years. Additionally, the percentage of students identifying as bisexual increased from 6.7% in 2021 to 7.9%. While there are many reasons why LGBTQ+ physicians may choose not to disclose their sexual orientation, ASGE’s goal is to ensure that all our members, including LGBTQ+ members, see ASGE as their primary resource for advancing their careers in gastroenterology in a safe and inclusive manner.

Advancing DEI in Gastroenterology

In 2021, ASGE’s Governing Board approved a Five-Year Action Plan to advance DEI in Gastroenterology. Five priorities serve as the foundation for ASGE’s DEI Agenda, which is achieved through society-wide initiatives. These priorities aim to embrace all facets of DEI:

  1. Increase diversity and inclusion on the ASGE Board, committees, task forces, educational programs, awards and nominations, and leadership programs.
  2. Promote diversity in the GI workforce pipeline.
  3. Promote equity and protection in the workplace regardless of gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability status.
  4. Expand healthcare equity and access to GI care.
  5. Develop a culturally sensitive and diverse healthcare workforce trained to deliver quality healthcare that improves the health of all patient populations.

Annually data is collected across society and an annual report is drafted to see how ASGE is doing in advances these priorities. 

Amplifying the Voice of LGBTQ+ Physicians in GI

As part of DEI Action Plan ASGE is dedicated to amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ physicians both within the organization and their clinical practice. While ASGE has made considerable strides in this area, there is still so much more we can do.  Key focus areas over the past three years have included creating platforms for LGBTQ+ members to share their experiences as gastroenterologists, developing educational resources for GI physicians that care for LGBTQ+ patients, supporting public policy that ensures access to quality GI care for underserved communities, providing funds for research grants on DEI initiatives in underserved populations, and serving as a resource for LGBTQ+ medical students considering a career in gastroenterology. ASGE has also started to create a support system to help LGBTQ+ physicians succeed in the GI field by offering networking and leadership opportunities, coaching and mentorship, and collaborations with like-minded organizations to promote diversity and inclusion within the field.

Specific Initiatives

ASGE has launched several initiatives to advance LGBTQ+ physicians and patient care as part of its DEI action plan. 

  • LGBTQ+ Subcommittee: Formation of an LGBTQ+ subcommittee within the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
  • Intersociety Group on Diversity: Collaboration with other GI societies to create resources for underrepresented groups in medicine and LGBTQ+ physicians, including a joint diversity symposium at the annual GI conference addressing LGBTQ+ health disparities.
  • Roundtable Discussions: Providing platforms for sharing experiences.
  • Educational Content: Development of LGBTQ+ educational content, including webinars and podcasts.
  • Webinars: Topics include “Do’s and Don’ts for Clinicians Interacting with the LGBTQ+ Community” and “Tips for a Career in Gastroenterology/Hepatology.”
  • Support and Advocacy: Collaboration with Rainbows in Gastro, a support group for LGBTQ+ gastroenterology providers, to share surveys and feedback.
  • Elevate Leadership Program: The program is a weekend event designed for early-career gastroenterologists who are underrepresented in medicine. This program encompasses learning, coaching, and networking, equipping participants with essential tools for success in gastroenterology.
  • Diversity Awards and Grants: Establishment of DDW Diversity Awards for research focused on gastrointestinal diseases in underserved populations, with awards for abstracts/research relevant to underrepresented groups and Diversity and Inclusion Research Grant for research identifying a clinical issue, intervention to address the issue and measuring the post-intervention outcomes.
  • Whitepaper Series: Submission of a DEI whitepaper series covering topics such as implicit bias, underrepresented minorities, women in medicine, and LGBTQ+ issues in gastroenterology.
  • Beyond the Scope Mentoring Program: This program pairs fellows and early career physicians with experienced gastroenterologists to explore areas of interest not typically covered in their training. It also helps them develop skills for navigating personal and professional issues that may impact their career trajectory.

Future Efforts

ASGE continues to work on implicit bias education related to the LGBTQ+ community. This includes developing toolkits, learning modules, and videos to address issues faced by providers and patients. More efforts are needed to encourage members to report their sexual orientation, enabling ASGE to be more purposeful in appointing LGBTQ+ members. Moving forward, ASGE remains committed to supporting and incentivizing physician engagement in committee work while recognizing the need for flexibility and understanding of individual circumstances.

ASGE’s commitment to DEI is essential in fostering an inclusive environment for both providers and patients. Through ongoing initiatives and future efforts, ASGE aims to eliminate healthcare disparities and ensure that all individuals, regardless of their background, receive the highest quality of care.

About the Author

Michelle is assistant director of membership and constituency initiatives for the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE).

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