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LGBT group sprouts in School of Medicine

The Parthenon

Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 23:12

Several students in Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine have come together forming an organization to promote awareness of issues in medicine faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Health Spectrum Alliance, as the group is known, “Is dedicated to cultivating a healthy, inclusive environment where medical students and professionals of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions are able to collaborate in order to optimize the delivery of healthcare in the tri-state area,” according to its mission statement.

Before starting medical school this past fall, Tamara Trout, HSA’s president, received her master’s degree in biomedical science from Marshall, in which she shared many courses with medical students.

“I have known this current set of medical students, who are fourth years now, since I started in 2010,” Trout said. “I have seen students in various places on the [LGBT] spectrum, and in various [stages] of being out of the closet, and there is nothing at this school that says ‘This is a welcoming culture, and this is a safe space for us to be out.’”  
Trout said she also saw that lack of culture reflected in the medical community around Huntington.

“I was a medical scribe at one of the local hospitals, and although the doctors were friendly to all patients, it seemed like, sometimes, there was a certain lack of cultural competency,” she said.

She said the doctors and other medical students sometimes did not know how to relate to their patients, or ask the right questions to meet their medical needs. She also encountered questions about what pronouns were appropriate when dealing with transgender patients.

All the pieces fell into place when she spoke with Assistant Dean of Diversity Shelvy Campbell. Trout said Campbell was very receptive. The medical school had actually been criticized for lacking diversity, so this was one initiative that dovetailed with Campbell’s goals as an administrator.  
Other students had also come to Campbell with an interest in starting an LGBT organization. Trout met with other founding members Scott Murphy, Divya Vangala, Aaron Dom, John Bruyere, Hilary Cornell, Kristen Hyberg and Maggie Espiridion to form a constitution, and Health Spectrum Alliance was born.

Campbell said she envisions the group sponsoring lectures and workshops, and assisting in addressing disparities in medical care in the LGBT community.

She also said it was a positive addition to the school.

“It’s going to be great for the medical school, because it puts us at the forefront,” she said.

In addition to addressing the needs of people seeking treatment, Campbell said it would help LGBT-identifying students.

“We want everyone to feel accepted and a part of our community,” she said. “We want to make sure that no one is uncomfortable, because there’s no need for them to hide who they are. “
Charlie House can be contacted at


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