Specialty Choice Among Sexual and Gender Minorities in Medicine: The Role of Specialty Prestige, Perceived Inclusion, and Medical School Climate

LGBT Health. 2016 Dec;3(6):451-460. doi: 10.1089/lgbt.2016.0058. Epub 2016 Oct 11.


Purpose: Sexual and gender minorities (SGMs) in medicine experience unique stressors in training. However, little is known about SGM specialty choice. This study examined predictors of SGM specialty choice, associations between specialty prestige and perceived SGM inclusion, and self-reported influences on specialty choice.

Methods: Medical trainees and practitioners (358 SGM, 1528 non-SGM) were surveyed online. We operationalized specialty choice at the individual level as respondents' specialty of practice; at the specialty level, as a percentage of SGM respondents in each specialty. We examined specialty prestige, perceived SGM inclusivity, and medical school climate as predictors of SGM specialty choice, and we compared additional influences on specialty choice between SGM and non-SGM.

Results: The percentage of SGM in each specialty was inversely related to specialty prestige (P = 0.001) and positively related to perceived SGM inclusivity (P = 0.01). Prestigious specialties were perceived as less SGM inclusive (P < 0.001). Medical school climate did not predict specialty prestige (P = 0.82). SGM were more likely than non-SGM to indicate that sexual and gender identity strongly influenced specialty choice (P < 0.01). SGM most frequently rated personality fit, specialty content, role models, and work-life balance as strong influences on specialty choice. Exposure as a medical student to SGM faculty did not predict specialty prestige among SGM.

Conclusion: Specialty prestige and perceived inclusivity predict SGM specialty choice. SGM diversity initiatives in prestigious specialties may be particularly effective by addressing SGM inclusion directly. Further research is needed to inform effective mentorship for SGM medical students. Exposure to SGM in medical training reduces anti-SGM bias among medical professionals, and SGM in medicine often assume leadership roles in clinical care, education, and research regarding SGM health. Supporting and promoting SGM diversity across the spectrum of medical specialties, therefore, represents a critical avenue to improve the care delivered to SGM populations and addresses the role of providers in the health disparities experienced by SGM.

Keywords: gender identity; health education/training program; minority stress; sexual orientation; survey design or survey methodology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Career Choice*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Hierarchy, Social*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Personality
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Schools, Medical*
  • Self Report
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Social Perception
  • Specialization*
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Work-Life Balance