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Alum Reaches Out to "Invisible" Lesbian Community

Invisible LesbianInvisible LesbianWith dual nurse practitioner certification in adult health and obstetrics/gynecology, Diane DerBoghosian,'95 MN, has a special interest in women's health issues. As a master's student, she was drawn to helping "the invisible and underserved" population of lesbian women, "especially gay women from minority communities, who are doubly invisible."

Many health care providers, DerBoghosian explains, are not only unaware of the health care issues lesbian women face, such as the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, they are unaware of their patient's sexual orientation. This lack of knowledge "significantly compromises" the quality of health care that is provided, she notes.

DerBoghosian, who currently practices at Hall Health Primary Care Center on the UW campus, feels that one of the largest barriers to effective patient/provider interaction is the standard health history form, which is replete with sexual health history bias.

"For example, the average form asks, 'Are you married?' rather than 'Are you partnered?' and 'What are you using for birth control?' rather than 'Do you need birth control?'" she points out. "Many lesbian women are not comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation on their own."

To help remedy this situation, DerBoghosian created a videotape on "the art of sexual health history-taking" as her master's project. Intended as an educational tool to increase awareness by health care providers when talking with female patients, the video has been used by the School of Nursing in its health assessment course for nurse practitioners, by the midwifery and post-master's nurse practitioner programs, and by the Medex program for physician assistant students. It has also been used for training practitioners in the outside community who are working with elderly populations.

DerBoghosian was assisted in this project by Associate Professor Susan Flagler, director of the women's primary care nurse practitioner program, and John McShane, who served as media development coordinator before his retirement last year.

"On the Art of Sexual Health History-Taking" is currently available on loan at the health sciences library or for purchase by contacting Diane DerBoghosian at (206) 616-2394, or by email to dderbo@u.washington.edu.

CREDIT:  A nurse practitioner takes a health history in a scene from the video, "On the Art of Sexual History Taking."