It is crucial that pharmacy schools incorporate LGBTQIA+ activities into their curriculum, according to a presentation at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Annual Meeting

The presentation, “Encouraging Inclusion: Incorporating LGBTQIA+ Activities for Community and Hospital Pharmacy throughout Student Pharmacists Education Experience,” was given virtually with a live question and answer session. It was presented by Chelsey Llayton, PharmD, a PGY2 academic resident at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Pharmacy, and moderated by VCU School of Pharmacy’s Lauren M. Caidas, PharmD, BCACP.

A growing number of Americans are identifying as LGBTQIA+, according to the presentation. Only 1.4% of traditionalists (those born between 1913-1945) identify as LGBTQIA+. For baby boomers (those born between 1946-1964), it is 2.4% and for generation X (1965-1980), 3.5% of the cohort identify as LGBTQIA+. Millennials have seen the largest increase, with 8.2% of that cohort identifying as LGBTQIA+, according to the presentation. 

“The LGBTQIA+ community is a growing one…The likelihood of students interacting with someone from this patient population is increasing, and they should be prepared to meet their health care needs just like they do for any other patient,” Llayton said. 

Although the number of LGBTQIA+ Americans is growing, most recent college graduates do not feel confident in treating LGBTQIA+ patients, especially those in the transgender community, according to the presentation. More than 98% of PGY1 community residents surveyed reported that they feel they have a responsibility to treat the transgender community; however, only 36.2% felt confident in their ability to do so.

Coverage of LGBTQIA+ subjects in pharmacy schools has increased significantly over the past 5 years. In 2014, 43% of pharmacy students surveyed reported having required LGBTQIA+ content in the curriculum. Only 14% rated the culture as “good” or “very good,” whereas 32% reported it was “very poor.” In 2019, 53% reported having mandatory transgender-related content in the curriculum.        

Although coverage is increasing, barriers still remain, including religious objections, uncertainty of what content to cover, lack or expertise, or it being a tier 3 topic, according to Llayton. There are several ways to incorporate LGBTQIA+ topics into the curriculum, including interprofessional courses, didactic therapeutic lectures, elective course, skills-based laboratory courses, and mixture of courses. 

“…Religious objections, this can be from faculty, students, even some institutions. However, it’s important to teach our students to treat all patients the same, regardless of their personal beliefs because our job is to serve everyone equally and provide the best care to all,” Llayton said. “The next 2 barriers commonly go hand in hand. Many faculty do not feel like they have expertise in this field and aren’t even sure what topics should be covered.” 

VCU has incorporated LGBTQIA+ centered activities into their curriculum. P1s and P2s learn the subject in the fall semester, while P3s took it in the spring. The lesson was composed of a pre-lecture survey, then a lecture on LGBTQIA+ health, then a learning level-specific activity, then a post activity survey. The overwhelming majority, 92% of students, said the intervention was a positive experience. Seventy-four percent said that additional education is still needed. 

VCU plans to follow the class of 2023 as they learn more material, spend more time on the focus material, and make knowledge questions more specific. LGBTQIA+ education should be integrated throughout the curriculum, rather than in one course or elective, according to Llayton.