HMS Completes First Phase of Sexual and Gender Minority Health Equity Initiative

Improvements span curriculum and culture

pride and trans flag waves in background. over it is the HMS logo and the title "Sexual and Gender Minority Health Equity Initiative." below in a red box it says "the first three years."


Being out as lesbian wasn’t easy when Jennifer Potter attended Harvard Medical School in the 1980s.

The curriculum she encountered didn’t include material on sexuality. Her coursework didn’t address LGBTQ health disparities except in a unit about HIV/AIDS, which was just emerging at the time, or how to provide affirming care for LGBTQ patients.

Get more HMS news here

The culture around her didn’t offer much reprieve. Although two queer students had started a club the year before she enrolled, Potter was still the only out student in her class. She watched a dean take down a flyer announcing one of the club’s meetings. A classmate audibly prayed for Potter each morning as she walked to her seat in the lecture hall.

“It was incredibly lonely,” she recalled.

  • chart of Pathways curriculum

    Back to basics

    To earn medical degrees, HMS students must demonstrate facility in six core competency areas. Thanks to the work of the initiative, all six now include components related to SGM health.

  • stethoscope on a white coat

    Beyond the fourth year

    The need to plug educational gaps and improve educational culture doesn’t end when students leave medical school.

  • Jennifer Potter speaks to students

    Teaching the teachers

    Effectively teaching students about SGM health requires that educators know what to teach and how to teach it.

  • group of people holding an LGBTQ rainbow flag

    A multiplicity of voices

    From the beginning, initiative leaders emphasized the need to engage and empower a variety of stakeholder groups.

  • Ed Hundert speaks to students on White Coat Day with portraits hung on the wall in the background

    Culture change

    Updating the information taught in the classroom and in the clinic can only go so far if the teaching environment doesn’t evolve along with it.