Resident physician focuses on improving LGBTQ+ cancer care
For Benjamin Schrank, M.D., Ph.D., personalized medicine is about more than tailoring treatment.
Schrank, a resident physician in Radiation Oncology, is passionate about creating an environment that’s inclusive, caring and safe for everyone. That passion is why he’s a founding member of MD Anderson’s Sexual and Gender Minority Cancer Care & Research Committee, focused on improving the care provided to LGBTQ+ patients.
“We really want to know our patients and connect with them so we can take care of them better,” Schrank says. “It’s that human connection that makes our work fulfilling and exciting.”
Wowed by MD Anderson’s inclusive environment and compassionate care
Schrank immediately noticed MD Anderson’s caring environment when choosing a residency program. He and his husband, Andrew, moved here from New York City in 2021. Schrank says Houston and MD Anderson are the most diverse and inclusive places he’s ever lived or worked.
“I was blown away by the quality of care and education at MD Anderson – and the patient-centered innovation,” he says. “There’s something different about the heart of the people who work here. The dedication and compassion are unmatched. Patients notice it, too.”
An opportunity to better support LGBTQ+ cancer patients through data collection
Sexual orientation and gender identity shape social determinants of health, including cancer outcomes, Schrank explains. LGBTQ+ patients generally may avoid care because they’re afraid of being mistreated or may receive suboptimal care from medical teams that don’t know how to support them, resulting in added stress and poor experiences.
Research shows that accurate data collection is a first step toward reducing such health disparities. That’s why the interdisciplinary team Schrank is working with is developing training for clinical teams and creating processes for collecting sexual orientation and gender identity demographic data. They will roll out the training, processes and resources to Radiation Oncology in 2023. They’ll then share their findings with the rest of the organization.
The committee also is working with the National LGBT Cancer Network to develop patient education resources to address patients’ unique needs, such as understanding the impact of cancer treatment on sexual health.
“Ultimately, we want all patients to know MD Anderson is a safe place to seek care,” Schrank says. “And we want to give our patients the resources, support and dignity they deserve.”