The University of Wisconsin Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health will be the first university in the nation to host the American Medical Association Foundation’s LGBTQ+ Fellowship Program.

UW will use $750,000 of AMAF funding to establish a program to educate early-career physicians on how to best care for LGBTQ+ patients, according to the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s web page.

About 50 to 60 other institutions were competing for the initiative before the AMAF chose UW.

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The fellowship will launch in July 2022 with two physicians who have completed primary care residencies, Director of the LGBTQ+ Health Fellowship Dr. Elizabeth Petty said in an email statement to The Badger Herald.

“Our goal is to educate our health care workforce to provide individualized compassionate, highly competent, and affirming care taking into account the unique intersectional identities of individuals across communities they serve, not only with this fellowship but with all of our education programs at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and UW Health,” Petty said.

The structure is highly individualized and flexible, Petty said. Fellows will take part in clinical care that emphasizes practices that benefit LGBTQ+ populations, Petty said.

Fellows will also give presentations and develop research projects to report on their experiences with the fellowship, according to Petty.

Community engagement is also central to the fellowship — all fellows must participate in a community project, Petty said.

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Studies have shown individuals within the LGBTQ+ community experience reduced access to preventative health care, higher rates of depression and increased suicide risks.

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, studies of the transgender community show that up to 39% of transgender people have faced harassment or discrimination when seeking health care. Many healthcare professionals deny care or victimize trans people.

Another survey of transgender individuals showed that 48% of respondents postponed or went without care when they were sick because they could not afford it. Further, many insurance plans include transgender-specific exclusions, denying transgender individuals coverage of services that would otherwise be provided to non-transgender individuals. These services include surgical treatment related to gender transition, mental health services and hormone therapy, according to the study.

This program is an attempt at addressing these disparities, according to the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s web page.

“This is an exciting and important opportunity to educate physicians to better serve the needs in our community and to advance health equity,” Petty said. “We have significant expertise among our faculty and staff at UW who have played key roles in advancing health equity for LGBTQ+ and gender diverse individuals and have greatly benefited from their ongoing leadership and support for this fellowship.”