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Two-Day Trans-Affirmative Medical Education National Conference Held in New Delhi

  • Thursday, May 12, 2022 10:00AM IST (4:30AM GMT)
Transgender community members, civil society organizations, medical educators, policy makers and researchers deliberated on draft competencies to transform India’s medical curriculum to make healthcare trans-affirmative at a national conference in Delhi
New Delhi, Delhi, India:  Sangath in association with the University of Chicago, Bucksbaum Institute of Clinical Excellence, Kasturba Medical College (Manipal) shared the draft competencies prepared as a part of the TransCare Med-Ed project in a two-day national conference organized at the Hotel Le Meridien, New Delhi recently.

Through a systematic, participatory, and inclusive effort, the TransCare Med-Ed project developed a set of draft trans affirmative competencies on trans-affirmative healthcare in India. To draft the competencies, a series of consultative stakeholder workshops were conducted in Delhi, Manipal and Bhopal. After these workshops, the project developed the competencies document for feedback in the national conference plays an important role.

The TransCare Med-Ed National conference on May 5th and 6th aimed at disseminating and discussing these competencies, highlighting best practices and building consensus on the way forward. The conference was organized in partnership with USAID-PEPFAR, SAATHI and UNDP.

The draft competencies were released by the TransCare team comprising of Prof. Aniruddha Hazra, University of Chicago; Dr. Aqsa Shaikh, HIMSR; Dr. Anant Bhan, Sangath; Dr. Khan Amir Maroof, UCMS; Dr. Satendra Singh, UCMS; Dr. Kirtana Raghurama Nayak, KMC Manipal and other team members. The opening session had formal remarks from Vandana Stapleton, USAID; Abhimanyu Saxena, UNDP India; Dr. B Srinivas, Assistant Director General (Medical Education), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The concluding session on the ways forward was attended by Simran Bharucha, ACCELERATE; Zayan, Nazariya; Dr. Suneela Garg, Maulana Azad Medical College; Kachina Chawla, USAID; Dr. Anshul Shukla, UNDP; David Bridger, UNAIDS and Dr. R Giri Raj, Director, National Institute of Social Defence.

The conference saw the active participation of trans and gender non-binary people, medical professionals, advocates, government officials and researchers from all across the country to discuss the rich diversity of lived experiences with respect to the health system. This included discussions on challenges in accessing healthcare for trans persons, the experiences of trans medical students and the importance of understanding intersectionality of experiences and social determinants of health. The conference explored the narratives of marginalisation within the system, the possibilities of inclusion and how we can work towards structural change during important policy windows by leveraging capacity building, research and advocacy movements for making the health system, and particularly, the medical education system, an affirming space for transgender people.

The conference saw participation from various key organizations such as NACO, NISD, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, UNAIDS, CEHAT, Nazariya, C-ShaRP, Johns Hopkins University, PCMH Restore Health, Solidarity Foundation, SAPPHO, India HIV/AIDS Alliance, Jindal Global Law School, TWEET foundation, TISS Mumbai, ATHI, among others.

“The conference, in particular, the lived experiences of trans* persons from across the country, reiterated the need for the trans-affirmative competencies. We were glad to have support from NACO, Dr. B Srinivas from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Dr. R Giri Raj, Director, NISD and we hope to see the inclusion of the competencies in the national curriculum. The most meaningful feedback we got from the participants was that the conference provided an affirming space where community and camaraderie were strongly experienced,” said Dr. Anant Bhan (he/him), Sangath and India Lead, TransCare MedEd.

“Medical education is far from being inclusive and affirmative and today with the release of these competencies it marks a crucial step in bridging the gap that has time and again been underlined by trans people and the judicial reviews. This should be seen as point of departure, hoping to broaden the discourse in and around medical classrooms,” said Gadha Asha (they/them), TransCare Med Ed, Sangath.

“There is an immediate need to make our health system trans-affirmative. This work that we have done at TransCare MedEd will be instrumental in shaping the policy discourse around this issue. We thank persons from the transgender community who agreed to participate in the study, and the national conference, and share their experiences,” said Dr. Aqsa Shaikh, HIMSR.

“This is the output of months of hard work and efforts by the team at TransCare MedEd. Making a country’s healthcare system trans-affirmative is the central objective of our project and we are sure this will work towards improving access to healthcare for the trans community by shaping the medical professionals of tomorrow,” said Prof. Aniruddha Hazra, University of Chicago.

“The health care system has a history of being an alienating space for transgender persons. TransCare MedEd is working towards making a structural difference in how medical students are educated and oriented towards marginalized communities. We hope this work goes beyond critique to systematically sensitise medical professionals towards the needs of transgender persons,” said Dr. Kirtana Raghurama Nayak, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal.

*trans and non-binary

About TransCare Med-Ed Project

Despite efforts for universal health access, trans and gender non-binary (TGNB) persons in India face unequal barriers in accessing healthcare. A major reason for this inequity is that the health professional education in India largely operates within the gender binary and has not worked to include Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) competencies. Moreover, the medical education pathologizes these identities within the curriculum.

In 2019, the Government of India passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, which mandates governments to take measures to “review of medical curriculum and research for doctors to address their [transgender] specific health issues”. Due to inaction, recent legal interventions from the Honourable courts of the country like the Kerala HC and the Madras HC have pushed for these conversations to create active change. This has led the National Medical Commission to release a mandate for the omission of harmful content from the curriculum.

This is where the work done in TransCare MedEd takes centre stage. TransCare MedEd addresses the lack of trans affirmative content that needs to be a part of the MBBS curriculum. Through a systematic, participatory, and inclusive effort, TransCare MedEd has developed a set of draft trans affirmative competencies on trans-affirmative healthcare in India.

After the consolidation and refinement of the competencies drafted through several consultative workshops, the project is culminating in a national conference on trans-affirmative medical education on the 5th and 6th of May, aimed at highlighting these best practices and discussing methods of teaching, consensus building and national dissemination of this work.

About Sangath

Sangath was registered in 1996 and began its journey as a modest child development clinic in Goa. Today, Sangath is widely known as one of India’s most reputed not-for-profits in the mental health space. Our path-breaking research and intervention programs in mental health, child development, adolescent health, addictions research and interventions have gained international recognition. Our singular desire is to bridge the treatment gap for mental health problems in India and other low- and middle-income countries. Sangath believes in empowering ordinary people, whom we often call lay counsellors, to deliver our psychosocial interventions in their communities. The success of the interventions we develop is centred on ensuring that they are affordable, easily accessible and acceptable to these communities.

About iHEAR

iHEAR is a collaborative initiative hosted at Sangath (Bhopal hub) that brings together academics, researchers, activists, practitioners and community representatives to conduct participatory research, advocacy and education at the intersection of marginalised identities, health access and mental health.
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Sharin D’Souza, Sangath, [email protected]

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