For many in the LGBTQ+ community, accessing healthcare services proves to be a challenge as many providers aren't equipped to treat their needs. Deirdre Shires, assistant professor in Michigan State University’s School of Social Work studies the health care disparities facing LGBTQ+ patients, and uses her findings to offer providers with opportunities to improve care and outcomes.
Shires’ research highlights inequalities in the health care system facing the LGBTQ+ community with the goal to make changes and improve access.
One of Shires' recent studies measured the willingness of primary care clinicians to treat transgender patients. The findings revealed that those unwilling to treat transgender patients tended to be older and more transphobic, while knowing a transgender person tended to make clinicians more willing to see transgender patients.
Shires is currently collaborating with health care providers to study the treatment of transgender patients in Detroit-area emergency rooms. The team is surveying emergency room providers to better understand the challenges of treating transgender patients from a provider’s perspective.
Shires is also engaged with a study that focuses on LGBTQ+ cancer survivors. Led by Wayne State University, the research team will conduct focus groups of LGBTQ+ cancer survivors to understand, from a patient's perspective, what needs to change to improve health care.
When studying care providers and LGBTQ+ care, Shires doesn’t only focus on the negatives.
“It’s also important to me to talk to providers who are doing a great job making care accessible and positive for transgender patients, in order to translate what they’re doing to help other providers improve how they care for the transgender community,” Shires said.
Shires is hoping her research will transform how health practitioners treat LGBTQ+ patients, and she purposefully communicates her findings to physicians, other providers and health care administrators.
“I want to highlight the inequities that exist and show ways in which providers can improve the experience of LGBTQ+ patients,” Shires said. “The goals of my research are to help break down the barriers that LGBTQ+ people experience when seeking care, improve their health care experiences and ultimately improve their lives.”