February is LGBT+ History Month and is an opportunity to celebrate those who have made positive contributions to society. This year’s theme celebrates LGBT+ peoples’ contribution to the field of medicine and healthcare both historically and today.
There have been many influential individuals who have contributed to healthcare through their research or practice, who have been openly LGBT+. One is, Michael Dillon who was the first trans man known to have undergone gender confirmation surgery. While in transition, Dillon wrote the first medical document on trans identity and gender-affirming treatments. Dillon underwent a total of 13 surgeries over the course of four years, undertaking his medical education, attending lectures, and undergoing surgery. Over those four years, Dillon went through what would be the world’s first phalloplasty as part of a transition.
Sophia Jex Blake was another influential figure; she was a Scottish physician, writer, and suffragette, who became the first woman in Britain to practice medicine. Along with six other women, she led a campaign for women to attend medical school. This led to the Medical Act law in 1876, which approved medical institutions in the UK to license qualified applicants as doctors regardless of their gender.
Physician and pathologist, Louise Pearce was one of the first female scientists of the early 20th century. Her research led to a cure for trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness) in 1919. Dr Pearce visited areas stricken with the illness and tested a new drug, which helped eradicate parasites in patients. She was also a member of Heterodoxy, a feminist biweekly discussion club, of which many members were lesbian or bisexual.
In recent times, Phill Wilson, a prominent Black HIV/AIDS activist founded the Black AIDS Institute in 1999. Wilson was later appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and served as a World AIDS delegate advocating for additional funding to Black-led HIV/AIDS groups.
It is important to look back, celebrate the great work of the LGBT+ community in healthcare, and look forward to those who will continue this work. We would like to thank our staff who have contributed to making Gateshead Health a safe space for us all and keeping excellent patient care at the forefront. Gateshead Health encourages diversity and inclusion and we are proud of our diverse workforce who are making such an impact.