The University of Auckland has added competency questions on the rainbow community to their Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) for students wanting to enter health care professions like medicine.

Fourth year University of Auckland medical student Josh McCormack proposed the change that was initiated earlier this month. 

The questions will assess knowledge of health issues for LGBTQIA+ communities, as well as barriers to care.

They will be added to the University of Auckland’s MMI, which is a compulsory part of the application process for students wanting to enter degrees that will allow them to work in the health care system. That covers a:  

  • Bachelor of Medicine
  • Bachelor of Surgery
  • Bachelor of Optometry
  • Bachelor of Pharmacy
  • Bachelor of Medical Imaging 
  • Master of Audiology 
  • Master of Health Sciences in Nutrition and Dietetics

For Josh, it’s important competency around LGBTQIA+ communities is addressed early among health students. 

“When asked about queer issues, a lot of medical students are super well meaning, but when you ask them questions they really choke. 

“This change will start to normalise it and make queer issues something that students will have to talk about and engage with,” says Josh.

“[And] instead of getting to medical school with the minimal queer teaching that we have, students are starting to really prepare and become comfortable discussing queer issues for the interview process before they even gained admission.”

The changes to the interview process are reflective of the need to improve queer competency among the wider health workforce. 

A survey on the gender diverse experience in Aotearoa in 2019 reported that almost half of the participants were uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with discussing being trans or non-binary with their GP.

Another report from the New Zealand Medical Association in 2018 revealed only half of gay or bisexual men who use PrEP (a HIV prevention drug) are “out” to their GP.

“The addition of the queer competency questions will help make our health professionals more assured when dealing with rainbow-related health issues,” Josh says. 

“It will help humanise queer patients. When you start to engage with these queer issues more from an earlier level, you become more comfortable and confident with them.

“It means that [our health care professionals are] more likely to not make assumptions, and ask the right questions that actually encourage people to come out to their GPs.”

Notably, there are only two medical schools in Aotearoa: University of Auckland and the University of Otago. The University of Otago does not have a similar process to the University of Auckland's MMI as interviews are not part of its admissions' process to medicine. When asked if queer competency was considered for prospective candidates, Otago did not provide specifics and said its entire admissions process was under review.

“I hope Otago will step up to the plate soon” says Josh.

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