Stanford Medicine hosts inaugural LGBTQ+ forum

Oct. 11, 2018, 12:03 a.m.

The inaugural LGBTQ+ Forum, which aimed to affirm the organization as a safe space for students, trainees, staff, faculty and alumni to discuss their stories about the LGBTQ+ community, took place on Wednesday. Founded by Timothy Keyes, a fourth-year MD-Ph.D. student, the forum was planned and hosted by the School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Attended by approximately 350 people, the event featured a variety of speeches, including opening remarks from Dr. Lloyd Minor, the Dean of the School of Medicine, and personal narratives from Stanford affiliates.

According to Keyes, interest in the forum started years ago, but Keyes did not propose the idea until an LGBTQ+ town hall meeting held at the Medical School in January 2018. After distributing a survey and receiving feedback from the meeting’s roughly 200 attendees, Keyes drafted an event proposal to Minor, who approved it.

“Medicine [and] science can still be a very exclusionary place,” Keyes said. “People are worried about anything that can make them look less appealing [or] less hirable, and so having an institutional commitment from the School of Medicine and [a] very, very supportive dean and leadership is a way of demonstrating that here at Stanford [being queer] is not something you have to worry about.”

During opening remarks, Minor addressed his personal commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think we have an innate responsibility as an academic medical center [and] as a great research university to celebrate and embrace diversity and inclusion in all of its aspects,” Minor said. “We have to feel every day that who we are, inside, is a vital part of who we are as a member of our community.”

Four Stanford affiliates also shared their personal stories during the event, including Benji Laniakea, a clinical assistant professor at the School of Medicine, who spoke about his medical school experience and the lack of knowledge on transgender patient treatment.

“None of our local medical providers knew anything about being trans,” Laniakea said. “The information on the internet was often contradictory, or anecdotal at best. And still to this day, there is no FDA approved treatment to helping transition … There’s a lot of improvement to be made.”

During his residency, Laniakea worked at a transgender health clinic where he could focus on working with transgender patients.

“I’m not saying that we need to have all our medical students graduating from Stanford become LGBT health specialists,” Laniakea said. “… all I want to be able to do is to have [School of Medicine graduates] feel armed with the knowledge and skills to provide appropriate LGB and transgender care — to provide competent and compassionate care.”

Laniakea added that the School of Medicine is addressing LGBT healthcare as part of the mandatory core curriculum.

“We are planning to pave the way where every patient can feel confident that they’ll receive excellent commitment from their doctor regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Laniakea said. “No matter where they are.”

Another event speaker, Leslee Subak, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the School of Medicine, described the pride she felt coming up to today’s event.

“I’ve been associated with Stanford for over 30 years, and I have never felt prouder than I felt today walking in, looking at the flags and rainbows,” Subak said. “It choked me up, and I just felt such gratitude.”

She went on to explain the cultural and institutional barriers people within the LGBTQ+ community face, adding that although this is the Bay Area, there are still barriers of understanding among minority groups regarding sexuality.

In a pre-event interview with The Daily, Keyes expressed interest in broadening the forum into a national conference so that non-Stanford-affiliated members can join in the conversation.

Half of the cost of Wednesday’s forum, according to Keyes, was raised by medical students.

“It’s the passion of the young people,” Keyes said. “We are driving the change at this institution because it’s something that we care about.”


This article has been updated to identify Stanford Health Care and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital as collaborators on the LGBTQ+ Forum. It has also been updated to reflect that one of the four speakers who shared personal stories is not affiliated with the School of Medicine, and that the quote about expanding the forum into a national conference is attributed to Timothy Keyes, not Benji Laniakea. It has also been updated to reflect that the School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital co-hosted the event. The Daily regrets these errors. 

This article has been updated to correct a misquote of Benji Laniakea. In the quoted interview with The Daily, Laniakea said he does not want LGBTQ+ patients to feel panicked coming out to a medical practitioner. In the incorrect quote that was originally published, comments from Laniakea were omitted without use of ellipses, making it seem as if Laniakea said instead that he does not want the medical practitioners to feel panicked about treating LGBTQ+ patients. The Daily regrets this error.

This article has been updated to clarify that the School of Medicine was the primary host for the event, updating information about its attendance and a more accurate representation of the wording of one of Dr. Lloyd Minor’s quotes. The Daily regrets these errors.

Contact Udani Satarasinghe at usatara ‘at’

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