Preparing Medical Students to Treat LGBTQIA+ Patients With Confidence With Matt Schabath, PhD

At the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, Matt Schabath, Associate Researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center, met with Oncology Data Advisor to discuss medical student readiness and confidence when treating LGBTQIA+ patients.

This podcast episode was recorded live at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago by Oncology Data Advisor and ConveyMed.

Oncology Data Advisor: Welcome to Oncology Data Advisor, I’m Keira Smith. Today, I’m here at the ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago speaking with Dr. Matt Schabath.

So, thank you for joining us. Would you like to tell us about your study on medical student readiness to treat LGBTQ patients?

Matt Schabath, PhD: Sure. This was a study that we conducted with medical students at the Thomas Jefferson University. It really was a follow-up on prior work that we’ve done among oncologists. We’ve done work among physician assistants and nurses to assess knowledge, attitudes, and affirming practice behaviors towards LGBT patients.

What we haven’t done is look at medical students, because that’s where the training begins and that’s where all those formative years come from, so we really replicated this study among medical students at a single institution.

Oncology Data Advisor: Great, so what were the results that you found?

Dr. Schabath: Interestingly, the results we found really mirrored what we found in oncologists in nationwide studies, but less similar to what we found among physician assistants and nurses. Some of the high-level findings we found were that the medical students had high confidence and comfort in treating LGB patients—LGB specifically, lesbian, gay, and bisexual—but they were less comfortable and confident about treating transgender patients. This is very similar across the board just because this is a smaller population, so there’s less information in the literature about them. And so, there’s clearly a lot of discomfort and low knowledge about treating these patients.

The other things we found were that they were very interested and motivated in receiving training regarding the care of LGBT patients. In fact, in a separate question, there was almost a majority; almost all of them requested that this become mandatory education, which is very different from what we’ve seen among oncologists, physician assistants, and nurses.

The other thing we found was that we asked what we call pre- and post-questions. We asked a set of confidence and comfort questions at the beginning of the survey and then we asked them at the end, sort of an “affirmation of what they don’t know” type of thing. And what we saw was a significant decline in some of the comfort and confidence, because they realize after going through all these questions—and we ask a series of knowledge questions—you go through all this and see that they’re gaining information as they take the survey, and that these comforts and confidence questions come down.

The other thing we found is that their knowledge on the unique health care needs of the LGBT population was actually quite high, and that’s consistent with more recent studies that we’ve done, where we saw a trend over time. Early on when we were conducting these studies eight, nine years ago, the knowledge questions were typically very low. Now we’re seeing it very high, so clearly this information is getting disseminated, there are more publications, and it’s being digested by the medical community on a whole.

Oncology Data Advisor: That’s really great. So, is there any additional research in this field, and how can it be implemented into practice?

Dr. Schabath: Well, I’m proud to say at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, we are one of the first cancer centers in the world to collect what we call sexual orientation and gender identity data. This is the information to identify our sexual and gender minority (SGM) patients or our LGBTQ patients.

Strikingly, what we have found in real time over the last six years of what we’ve been collecting, we’re identifying real world cancer disparities for the LGBT patients. So, that’s the area that I’ve done a lot of work on—physician knowledge, medical school knowledge, provider knowledge. We’ve developed a curriculum to train oncologists regarding the unique health care needs of LGBT patients, so the next area of research is now doing a large-scale study on identifying these disparities among these patients, and then, once we can identify them, we can intervene.

One of the things we find are that they’re less likely to participate in early detection modalities. They’re more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers. So, one of the things that we can easily start addressing in the near future is campaigns to educate not only our providers, but also the SGM population as a whole, about early detection, why it’s important, what’s available and when, and how to get it. That’s an easy push that we can do to push that bar, to move it from late-stage diagnosis to early-stage diagnosis, or even in some cases, preventable disease.

Oncology Data Advisor: That’s great. Thank you so much for explaining all this, and congratulations on your presentation here.

Dr. Schabath: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Thank you for listening to this podcast recorded live at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting by Oncology Data Advisor and ConveyMed. For more expert perspectives on the latest in cancer research and treatment, be sure to subscribe to the podcast at and Don’t forget to follow us on social media for news, exclusive interviews, and more.

About Dr. Schabath

Matt Schabath, PhD, is an Associate Member in the Cancer Epidemiology and Thoracic Oncology Departments at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. Dr. Schabath is interested in researching health disparities among LGBTQ/SGM populations, quantitative imaging/radiomics, molecular epidemiology, and cardiovascular/cardiotoxicity epidemiology. He also serves as the chair of the SGM Working Group in the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group.

For More Information

Schabath MB, Karpel HC, Sampson A, et al (2022). Medical student readiness to treat LGBTQ patients. J Clin Oncol (ASCO Annual Meeting Abstracts), 40(suppl_16). Abstract 11030. DOI:10.1200/JCO.2022.40.16_suppl.11030

Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Oncology Data Advisor. 

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