Teaching Intersectionality of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Race/Ethnicity in a Health Disparities Course

MedEdPORTAL. 2020 Jul 31:16:10970. doi: 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10970.


Introduction: Intersectionality considers how different identities simultaneously affect an individual's experiences. Those of multiple minority statuses may experience effects of intersecting systems of oppression. Most health disparities curricula do not focus on intersectionality. We studied the impact of an innovative module teaching intersectionality of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race/ethnicity issues in the required Pritzker School of Medicine course Health Care Disparities: Equity and Advocacy.

Methods: A short lecture reviewed sexual and gender minority (SGM) health disparities, intersectionality, minority stress, and shared decision making (SDM) to establish shared language among 83 first-year medical students. Students then viewed four videos of SGM patients of color (POC) describing their health care experiences, each followed by moderated discussion about how compounded minority stress affects lived experiences and health and how to improve SDM for SGM POC. One video interviewee attended the session and answered students' questions. Evaluation was performed using pre- and postsurveys.

Results: Feeling somewhat/completely confident in defining intersectionality increased from 57% to 96%. Prior to the session, 62% of respondents reported feeling somewhat/completely confident in identifying barriers to care for SGM patients, and 92% after. Thirty-three percent felt somewhat/completely confident in asking SGM patients about their identities before the session, and 81% after. Eighty-four percent rated the session as very good or excellent.

Discussion: The session was well received, improved student knowledge of intersectionality, and improved confidence in communicating with and caring for SGM patients. Future iterations could include condensing the lecture and including a patient panel and/or small-group discussion.

Keywords: Anti-racism; Cultural Competence; Diversity; Ethnicity; Gender Identity; Health Disparities; Health Equity; Human Sexuality; Identity; Inclusion; Intersectionality; LGBTQ; Race; Sexual and Gender Minorities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*