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Feb 07, 2014 02:42 PM EST

University of Pennsylvania Rolls Out LGBT Health Initiative


The University of Pennsylvania is rolling out a health initiative for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in an effort to bring them into the medical mainstream, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The Penn Program for LGBT Health will span the medical, dental and nursing schools as well as the region's largest health system.

Hospitals and universities have begun tackling LGBT health since issues like gay marriage have been gaining in public acceptance.

"We really want to do more. We want to do research. We want to change the climate and culture," Baligh Yehia, 31, an infectious-diseases doctor who spearheaded Penn's program, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "To really prepare the next generation of clinicians to be sensitive to the needs of people."

The goal of the program is to improve the care of LGBT populations by becoming a local and national leader in LGBT patient care, education, research, and advocacy.

The program will include a three-hour curriculum involving transgender health that is now mandatory for first-year students. The course will teach students about the human body with Trans examples, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. For example instructors will use the body's physiological changes during hormone therapy to help students understand the endocrine system.

Medical students at the university will also receive less than five hours of training on LGBT issues courses on lesbian, gay and bisexual health.

The idea for this program came out of a daylong planning retreat that the program's organizers held in the fall.

Heshie Zinman, chair of the LGBT Elder Initiative, was one of several leaders in the city's gay community invited to play a role in the program.

"It's a great business model," Zinman told The Philadelphia Inquirer.  "It is expanding your market, targeting, providing good customer service, . . . but in terms of moral and ethical imperative, it just makes sense as well."

The LGBT community is known to be at greater risk for greater risk for diseases ranging from some cancers to depression due to stigma and discrimination that lead to lower rates of employment and insurance, and higher rates of violence and stress.

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