UCI News

Adding an LGBTQ+ focus to M.D. training

Two UCI medical students who’ve benefited from donor support spearhead revisions to school curriculum that boost inclusivity

by Christine Catlett, UCI | April 28, 2020
Adding an LGBTQ+ focus to M.D. training
“Perhaps the greatest feedback I’ve gotten about these curriculum changes was when another medical student told me that because of our efforts, when they were treating a trans patient, they felt completely comfortable with what to do and say – and even taught others,” says Alex Marlow (right), with Kelton Mock outside UCI’s School of Medicine. Steve Zylius / UCI

Third-year UCI medical students and close friends Alex Marlow and Kelton Mock have changed the landscape of learning in the School of Medicine by helping reformat its curriculum to include more LGBTQ+-specific health education in hopes of producing future physicians better equipped to serve this demographic.

To accomplish this, Marlow and Mock teamed with Ellena Peterson, then associate dean of medical school admissions, and Terrance Mayes, UCI Health’s associate vice chancellor for diversity & inclusion. They applied for and received a $30,000 Confronting Extremism grant from UCI’s Office of Inclusive Excellence in 2018 to bridge the gap between medical and nursing education and the LGBTQ+ community and improve healthcare delivery through dialogue, education and understanding.

Curricular changes included expanding existing LGBTQ+ health topics to all four years of medical school by adding a subject-related community panel session for third-year students and a subject-related clinical skills exam for all fourth-year students. Marlow and Mock also created a video – with help from UCI healthcare providers and leaders from the LGBTQ Center OC – describing UCI’s mission to be a welcoming presence for LGBTQ+ communities in Orange County.

Their work has had the full support of School of Medicine administration and faculty. And the LGBTQ+ health training has made a difference in the level of ease medical students feel when treating their patients, Mock says.

“Perhaps the greatest feedback I’ve gotten about these curriculum changes was when another medical student told me that because of our efforts, when they were treating a trans patient, they felt completely comfortable with what to do and say – and even taught others,” Marlow says.

Scholarship success

During their project to supplement the medical school curriculum last year, Marlow and Mock also received the Joel E. Myres Service Learning Award, which is given to two second-year medical students who demonstrate notable dedication to community service. Both are appreciative, as the funding offset the costs of living.

Not having to work over the summer “allowed me to focus on our video project without worrying about covering rent or buying food,” Mock says.

They’re among many grateful UCI students who benefit from philanthropic support. These awards partly cover university expenses and enable them to pursue activities outside the classroom – such as research or community service – that enrich their UCI experience and help them succeed after graduating. UCI provides nearly 1,000 scholarships funded by generous donors, giving students more than $4 million in academic aid.

In addition, Marlow and Mock shared the UCI Alumni Association’s 2019 Lauds & Laurels award for outstanding graduate student.

“In the short time they’ve been at UCI, Alex and Kelton have left an indelible footprint and made long-lasting contributions to UCI and its surrounding community,” says Peterson, who has since retired. “Besides being altruistic with ‘can-do’ attitudes, they are extremely intelligent, humble and empathetic. They’re two wonderful human beings with tons of potential and are a gift to the practice of medicine and their future patients. UCI should be very proud of these students. I am!”

Motivated to help

Marlow and Mock have always had a strong desire to work in the world of health. Mock’s dual interests in science and the humanities led him to family medicine. And Marlow’s transition from female to male propelled him into the field.

“The act of transitioning is an inherently medical one,” he says. “You need physicians to prescribe hormones, psychiatrists to attest to your mental readiness to have gender affirmation surgery, and surgeons to perform those procedures. Transitioning also requires courage. So I felt empowered to use my own medical journey as inspiration to give back high-quality, compassionate care to underserved communities – and to make all patients feel welcome and accepted.”

Marlow and Mock are both part of UCI’s Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community, a five-year M.D./master’s program that trains physicians to meet the specific needs of the disadvantaged Latino population. Utah native Mock found out about PRIME-LC through a UCI News article on the unique mission and experience of UCI’s first undocumented medical student, Oscar Hernandez, who’ll get his M.D. this June.

“I remember being very excited about the thought that I could one day study alongside a group of inspiring students like Oscar, who are committed to serving Latinx communities while receiving a rigorous medical education at UCI,” says Mock, who cites Latino mentors in his past as other motivators. “PRIME-LC has proven to be everything I had hoped for and more. Funnily enough, Oscar is actually now my housemate, although he’s leaving to do his residency in Ohio, where I know for certain he’ll become a spectacular surgeon and physician-leader.”

Marlow grew up close to the border in San Diego. Working in restaurants and volunteering in hospitals exposed him to the numerous sociocultural, language and economic barriers that Latinos face when trying to obtain adequate healthcare.

“The PRIME-LC program here at UCI interested me because it provides earlier and more opportunities to work with Latinx patients, along with Chicano and Latino studies courses to better understand Latinx issues,” Marlow says. “Ultimately, it cultivates physician-leaders who can give back to their community.”

Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Medicine plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/uci-school-of-medicine.