To help ensure that future primary care doctors are able to address the physical and mental health care needs of people who are LGBTQ, UCLA Health has created an immersive, one-year fellowship focused on LGBTQ-centered care.

The UCLA LGBTQ Fellowship, which starts on July 1, was conceived about a year ago by faculty in the internal medicine department at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA to address LGBTQ-specific topics, which often are not adequately addressed in medical school and residency training.

The training will help doctors provide the best counsel for disease prevention and screening, sexual and behavioral health, transgender care and hormone management, and gender affirming surgery.

“We felt there were many primary care physicians who would be interested in devoting a year of training to gain these essential skillsets,” said Dr. George Yen, an assistant professor of internal medicine at medical school. “We're partnering with outstanding clinical sites, including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, to offer a comprehensive array of training. I see many patients who actively search for experienced and competent LGBTQ providers. So there is a demand for this on the patient level, too.”

Dr. M. Chase Cates, 32, an internal medicine resident at Unity Health in Searcy, Arkansas, was chosen as the first LGBTQ fellow from among candidates nationwide. Throughout the fellowship, he will serve as a clinician, researcher and clinical instructor. Cates will work with patients at UCLA and non-UCLA sites, and will design a community outreach project tailored to improving the lives and health of people who are LGBTQ. The fellowship offers an annual salary and benefits package, as well as paid time off and funding to attend conferences.

“What really stood out about Dr. Cates was his dedication and passion for LGBTQ patients,” Yen added. “Self-identifying as a gay physician is a brave thing to do. And despite living in the South and having limited resources to exercise his interests, he found ways to improve his community. For example, many of his faculty mentors and fellow residents had never heard of Truvada, a medication that reduces the risk of acquiring HIV. So Dr. Cates created lectures to teach others about it.”

Cates, who grew up in Dallas, Texas, plans to return to the southern United States when the fellowship ends to focus on HIV prevention and management and transgender health care. The South leads the nation in new HIV infections and HIV-related deaths, according to the most recent data from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Ultimately, my goal is to be educated and bring that education back to the South to give the LGBTQ community the care that they need.” Cates added.

UCLA Health recently received national recognition as a leader in LGBTQ care. The deadline to apply for the 2020 UCLA LGBTQ Fellowship is Nov. 30.