University Health Services provides inclusive health care for LGBTQ students

Stephanie Adeline

University Health Services started off the new year making efforts toward improving health care for LGBTQ students.

On a webpage published in early January, UHS explained the new resources they have for LGBTQ students. These resources include the option to select preferred pronouns and the inclusion of gender confirmation services in the UT student health insurance plan.

Dr. David Vander Straten, UHS physician, said the lack of resources on campus often leads LGBTQ students to seek care from outside providers. UHS aims to bridge this gap between resources on and off campus, Vander Straten said.

“We’ve heard stories that students who transport back and forth to offsite-clinics would be the victims or would be subject to discrimination, harassment or personal safety threats,” Vander Straten said. “If there’s a way that we can provide (those) services … here on campus in a potentially more safe and more inclusive environment, we want to try to.”

Students are now able to select a preferred name and gender on UHS medical records so UHS staff can correctly refer to students.

Joey Hannah, Counseling and Mental Health Center psychologist and diversity coordinator, said making sure students are referred to by the correct pronoun and name can help students feel comfortable when seeking health care.

“When people have bad experiences with health care providers … they tend not to trust those providers and they tend not to trust the profession, and they don’t come back,” Hannah said. “When people don’t come back, they’re not addressing their health needs, (and) things get worse.”

Although UHS does not currently provide gender confirmation services, which include hormone therapy and surgery, CMHC can provide letters for students needing gender affirming services and can refer students to an outside provider, Hannah said.

UHS also plans to launch a telemedicine service later this semester in collaboration with the Gender and Sexuality Center so students can meet with a doctor electronically from the GSC office in the Student Activity Center, Vander Straten said. This service is made possible through a $3,500 award from the American College Health Foundation.

GSC Director Liz Elsen said the telemedicine service will improve access to health care for LGBTQ students.

“If we get access to telemedicine services, it might encourage students to talk to a doctor in a place they feel more comfortable, and in a location they are already used to,” Elsen said.