Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in MS Care for the LGBTQ+ Patient Population: William L. Conte, MD, MS


The head of the MS Center at Methodist Hospitals and assistant professor of neurology at Indiana University talked about the significance of diversity and the health disparities faced by patients with multiple sclerosis in the LGBTQ+ community. [WATCH TIME: 3 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 3 minutes

"Studies have shown, for instance, a lot of transgender patients not only delay disclosure to their healthcare professional but also delay treatment for general health problems because of fear. This is concerning as a whole in healthcare, that we have people that are delaying their care because they are afraid of being ‘discovered’."

June is Pride Month, a time that is dedicated in celebration and commemoration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender plus other identities pride (LGBTQ+). In the patient population of multiple sclerosis (MS), those who identify in the LGBTQ+ community experience less favorable care and overall poorer health compared with cisgendered heterosexual patient with MS. These patients may deal with more challenges in addition to the management of their MS and have an increased risk of comorbid diseases and substance abuse.1 Therefore, raising awareness on the disparities this patient population experiences and addressing their unmet needs can help to improve their quality of life.

Recently, William L. Conte, MD, MS, head of the MS Center at Methodist Hospitals and an assistant professor of neurology at Indiana University, and Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP, director of behavioral medicine at the Mellen Center for MS Treatment and Research at Cleveland Clinic, presented on research and care in the LGBTQ+ population of MS at the 2023 Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) Annual Meeting, held May 31 to June 3, in Aurora, Colorado. During the session, the speakers touched upon the importance of diversity especially in the LGBTQ+ community in MS and the increase in health disparities among this patient population.2

After the meeting, Conte sat down in an interview with NeurologyLive® to discuss some of the main takeaways from the panel and areas of improvement in the field. He talked about how inclusivity and social support can contribute to better health outcomes for LGBTQ+ individuals and other minority groups. He also spoke about the steps that can be taken to collect relevant data on sexual orientation and gender identification in clinical trials to understand potential differences in health outcomes. In addition, he shared how healthcare professionals can create welcoming environments that encourage disclosure and timely treatment for minority patients.

Click here for more coverage of CMSC 2023.

1. Conte WL, Cascione M, Sullivan AB. Podcast on the Challenges and Recommendations to Address Unmet Needs in MS for LGBTQ+ Populations in the United States [published online ahead of print, 2023 Jun 23]. Neurol Ther. 2023;10.1007/s40120-023-00506-4. doi:10.1007/s40120-023-00506-4
2. Sullivan A, Conte WL. I’m in Presents “Serving the LGBTQIA+ Population in Research and Healthcare.” Presented at: 2023 CMSC Annual Meeting; held May 31-June 3; Aurora, CO. Can a Novel DMT Class Deliver Better Outcomes in MS? SS2.
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