In Pursuit of a DukeMedicine OutList

Thursday, August 27, 2015
By Michael Hochman, Shan Elahi, Diane Meglin, LCSW

Student organizations can often play an important role in student advocacy, and DukeMed Pride is no exception. Formerly known as the DukeMed Gay-Straight Alliance, this rebranded organization has been working to create a supportive environment for Duke lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) health professional students and their allies.

Shan Elahi (MS4), Zachary Walker (MS3), Michael Hochman (MS3+), Yiannis Koullias (recent graduate), and faculty advisor Diane Meglin, LCSW, have spent the past school year working on the creation of the first Duke Medicine OutList. An OutList is a voluntary list of faculty and staff who willingly choose to be “out,” or publicly open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. OutLists already exist at many peer medical schools, including Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins University.

Why have these lists become so important and prevalent?  In part, despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality and other positive cultural changes, this minority group is still impacted by homophobia, transphobia and many significant disparities. OutLists offer visibility and affirmation to the LGBTQ community as students can see their own identities reflected by others who are “out” in the work environment. This provides the opportunity for students to receive mentorship and career guidance from those who once walked in their shoes.

The DukeMedicine OutList will be more expansive than OutLists at peer institutions.  Not only will it include people who self-identify as an “ally” (or advocate) but it will include other health professionals, such as nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical social workers, and physical therapists. By identifying experts in healthcare topics important to sexual and gender minorities and promoting LGBTQ visibility, the DukeMedicine OutList will also benefit recruitment, retention, research, and education efforts.  Finally, the OutList will foster an interprofessional community for Duke sexual and gender diverse and ally clinicians.

This summer, physicians and housestaff from clinical departments at Duke University Hospital will receive an invitation to voluntarily complete the OutList survey in order to be listed on the DukeMedicine OutList. Under the leadership of the School of Medicine’s Chief Diversity Officer, Judy Seidenstein, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) will compile and publish the OutList on DukeMed Pride’s website, sites.duke.edu/dukemedpride/.  In upcoming months, the OutList will be expanded to include additional hospitals and professions in the Duke University Health System (DUHS).

“I think that this will make a lasting impact on LGBT students who consider Duke as a choice for training.” notes Michael Hochman, co-president of DukeMed Pride. “The overwhelming support we have received from the clinical department chairs, faculty, and housestaff already is a great example of the affirming and supportive environment at Duke,” said Shan Elahi, co-president of the group.

Indeed, institutional support has been very strong. The project has received support from the Duke LGBT Task Force, Sexual and Gender Diversity Council, Office of Institutional Equity, and The Duke Medicine Sexual & Gender Diversity, as well as Duke’s leadership and administration teams. School of Medicine Dean Nancy Andrews, School of Nursing Dean Marion Broome, Duke Hospital President Kevin Sowers, DUHS Executive Vice President Dr. Bill Fulkerson, DUHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Owens, and many others have strongly supported this important initiative.