Mini-series: Embedding LGBT+ health in the undergraduate medical curriculum

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This post in the Mini-series on Inclusivity in the Curriculum builds on a previous post written by Dr Jeni Harden and Jo Spiller, which discussed their work with students to create open educational resources on LGBT+ health for use within the undergraduate medical curriculum. Below, Jeni, a Senior Lecturer in Social Science and Health, presents an update on this work…

The initial project

An audit of the MBChB curriculum at The University of Edinburgh highlighted that there was very limited coverage of LGBT+ health. To address this, in 2015 we recruited a group of six medical students to develop open learning resources, and to pilot a learning event on LGBT+ health.

Development of learning resources

  1. Digital stories

    The students worked with the LGBT Health and Wellbeing (a voluntary organisation in Edinburgh), University of Edinburgh LGBT student societies, and a range of other networks, to identify LGBT+ volunteers willing to share experiences of healthcare. The students undertook nine interviews with these volunteers, recorded and transcribed them, and then edited them into short digital stories. You can watch this video below

  2. Literature review

The students undertook a review of relevant literature on LGBT+ health, and produced this in a format suitable for their peers.

Pilot event

The students planned and organised an evening event for medical students in March 2016. The event included a panel of LGBT+ individuals, community representatives and medical practitioners. It was very well-received by those attended (40), with average feedback score on our evaluation forms of 8.6 out of 10.

Embedding in the curriculum

Building on the work of this project, in 2017 I introduced a teaching session within the Health, Ethics and Society module in Year 1 of the MBChB curriculum. The teaching comprises:

  1. Small group discussions facilitated by LGBT+ individuals who focus on a particular aspect of their own experience, for example, being a trans woman.
  2. A whole class anonymous question and answer session with the small group facilitators. In this session, students are encouraged to ask questions that will promote their understanding and so enable them to improve the care they give to LGBT+ patients.

Following the teaching session, the students have access to the digital stories created in the initial project, and an annotated ‘going further’ resource list.


The taught session has been evaluated very positively by the Year 1 students. For example, one student said, “I’m just glad we are getting this teaching”. 93.4% agreed or strongly agreed that the session improved their understanding of LGBT+ health:
“It made me realise that this is something I need to be aware of as a doctor”.

Many of them commented that they liked that there were people with real experiences involved: “Having people with experience in this area talking to us made it more relatable”

Next Steps

Student feedback from the event highlighted that they would also like practical guidance, particularly around communication skills. Working with Ingrid Young, I will consider how to build on this as part of the current MBChB review of the Year 1-2 curriculum, and seek opportunities to embed it further in teaching and assessment in the clinical years.

This work is also now part of a wider initiative within the MBChB. I have established an Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity in the Curriculum (EDIC) working group, and invited students to become involved, who ideally will ultimately lead the group. We held our first meeting in May and agreed the remit of the group: to enhance learning, assessment and teaching approaches to promote equality and diversity competence, defined as, “the ability to function with awareness, knowledge and interpersonal skill when engaging people of different backgrounds, assumptions, beliefs, values and behaviours” (Hogan, 2007, p. 3). Initial activities will involve mapping current activities (curriculum content, assessment, learning and teaching approaches) to identify good practice and areas for improvement, and opportunities for embedding equality and diversity in the curriculum.


Hogan M. (2007) Four skills of cultural diversity competence: a process for understanding and practice. Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning

Jeni Harden

Jeni Harden is a Senior Lecturer in the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics at the University of Edinburgh.

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