Things to Look For
As you explore where to apply and where to attend medical school, you will want to consider many factors in relation to your fit. Here are some resources, opportunities, and dynamics you may want to look for as an LGBTQ applicant.
On the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) Database
Under the "Campus Life" section of the AAMC's MSAR database, a subsection called "Support Systems at this Medical School for Gender and Sexual Minority Students" details what medical schools do to support LGBTQ students. This information is input by each school, and the level of attention to this section varies quite a bit. Some schools provided no information, so the section may read "Not available." Others may have provided a general statement about diversity. Some schools described student-led affinity groups, and a number of schools provided lengthy, detailed responses about how they support LGBTQ students. Check here to see if you can learn more about how a particular school might support you. (The MSAR database requires a subscription to view some information about individual schools, but not this section).
On Medical School Websites
Most medical schools will have a non-discrimination statement or policy, and most but not all will include gender and sexual orientation. Most will also include gender identity, but not all do. Many also include gender expression. At least one U.S. medical school reserves the right to discriminate based on religion, including sexual conduct inconsistent with its teachings.
Recruitment and/or Statements of Support
Some institutions make it a priority – though often not publicly – to recruit LGBTQ applicants or at least prioritize their inclusion in admissions. Some may offer statements of support encouraging LGBTQ students to apply to their school. Examples include Northwestern, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Stanford University.
A few medical schools have formalized programs for LGBTQ medical students to connect with a similarly-identified mentor at the institution (example: Washington University in St. Louis). This may be a helpful support resource for you and may also offer practical insight into navigating LGBTQ identities in medicine. Other schools may have informal mentorship opportunities, and often the faculty members that choose to be on a school's Out List are happy to mentor LGBTQ medical students.
Most medical schools have an on-campus LGBTQ student group, but not all do. See if you can get a sense how active a school’s group is, and from there look for opportunities to connect with it digitally or during a medical school visit.
A small number of schools or student groups share a public, voluntary directory of out LGBTQ faculty, staff, and (in some cases) students on their websites. The individuals that opt in to these lists often agree to be contacted as a resource by current or prospective community members. If you can’t find such a list on a school’s website, you can try doing a search for “(specific medical school) + Out List.” A 2019 study examined the presence of out lists at U.S. medical schools. See a complete list of medical schools that currently have an Out List here.
A 2011 study of U.S. and Canadian medical schools found the median reported time allotted to LGBTQ-related content was five hours. See if you can determine how much an individual school’s curriculum includes LGBTQ-related content, including how much is in required courses vs. electives. Also see if you can determine when relevant electives are offered, as certain times (lunch hour, for example) can be an indicator of how much those subjects are prioritized.
How visible are LGBTQ identities, people, or issues on the school’s website? Do you have to dig quite a bit to find any mention of LGBTQ people or content, or is it easy to find signs of a welcoming, inclusive environment?
Some schools make an effort to host LGBTQ speakers or talks on LGBTQ topics. Some student groups might advertise their events publicly online or on campus. Check event listings, if a website has them, and social media.
A few schools have resources specifically for LGBTQ medical students. Harvard Medical School, for example, has LGBTQ advisors and an LGBTQ outreach and engagement office.
As the vast majority of medical schools do not have a specific office or staff member dedicated to LGBTQ students, check to see if the greater university community has a diversity and inclusion or multicultural student affairs office that serves LGBTQ students. Specifically, check if this office is located on the same campus as the medical school and if it serves graduate level students.
During a Visit to a Medical School
Physical Indications of Inclusion
Keep an eye out for rainbow, pride, or "ally" stickers, flags, signs, or pins during interview day visits. These can be indicators of a welcoming environment. Visible signage of some kind typically shows a medical school has been intentional about sending a message of inclusion.
Structural Indications of Inclusion
A few structural or systemic indicators can be telling. Does the school have all-gender or gender neutral restrooms, and how accessible are they? Do interviewee nametags include pronouns? Does anyone from the school introduce themselves with their pronouns?
Opportunities to Connect with LGBTQ Students or Faculty
Beyond Out Lists, some schools create intentional opportunities for interviewees to connect with current LGBTQ students or faculty, such as a breakfast or lunch. Some schools will reach out directly to applicants that share an LGBTQ identity prior to the interview, while others may make such an opportunity available during interview day. Often schools have representatives from different student groups participate in interview day activities.
Events and Opportunities for Current Students
Be on the lookout for flyers or other promotional materials, event listings, and campus happenings specifically related to LGBTQ students or LGBTQ issues. Some schools have visiting clerkships or research opportunities, or opportunities to attend conferences with LGBTQ students in mind.
Overall Visibility and Presence
Take stock of your visit after it is over and consider how visible or acknowledged LGBTQ identities, people, or issues were during your visit. Did you meet anyone with an identity similar to yours? If you were out on your application, did it come up at all? Did it feel like LGBTQ identities are embraced at the school? Keep in mind, though, that all interview experiences are different, and a lower visibility experience is not necessarily a comprehensive indicator of a school’s inclusiveness or the overall environment.