Seattle physician improves healthcare for LGBTQ patients

SEATTLE — A family doctor with the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle is helping providers understand health disparities to create equitable care for the LGBTQ community.

Faculty physician Dr. Kevin Wang’s personal story of struggle inspired his journey to improve the quality of medical care for LGBTQ patients.

“When I went to go see my family doctor, it was always, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ or ‘What kind of girls do you like?’ nothing mentioning about anybody else, right? And, for me, it just felt, ‘Wow, it must be wrong to be gay,’” Wang said.

Throughout his life, first as a young patient and then as a medical student, Wang greatly understood the need. He saw firsthand how the lack of understanding could impact the overall health outcome for LGBTQ individuals.

“There really wasn’t any training on the LGBT-plus population, and when I graduated, I knew I wanted to be a teacher in family medicine. I knew I wanted to integrate something to help our future physicians be prepared,” Wang said.

At the beginning of Wang’s career, he created an integrated LGBTQ-plus training curriculum for physicians and students at Swedish Family Medicine Residency at First Hill.

“Healthcare disparities exist in the LGBT-plus population,” he said. “Once people get the foundation, and start to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment, then people will start feeling safe to come out to those providers.”

Since the training program launched nearly six years ago, Wang’s colleagues said they have seen it transform LGBTQ care at Swedish. Program Director Dr. Ben Davis, a former student and now Wang’s colleague, is inspired by his work.

“Moved from something that was not ever talked about to having the adjective ‘excellence’ in there, and that is solely on the shoulders of Kevin Wang,” Davis said. “He has built this from the ground up. We have a lot of patients come through our clinic with word-of-mouth, because they knew about Dr. Wang, they knew about our other providers who are providing really inclusive and competent care for them and their community.”

Wang now serves as medical director for Swedish Medical Group’s LGBTQ-plus Initiative to identify opportunities for improvement and how to best utilize their resources. In addition, he finds time to volunteer with various nonprofits on a national and local level, including Seattle Pride and Pride ASIA, where he recently served as their virtual keynote speaker.

“There is very few LGBTQ Asian Americans out there that are our role models. I am very proud to know him and to be able to share in the work that he does,” Pride ASIA founder Aleksa Manila said. “I really admire his ability to ensure representation of marginalized groups within the LGBTQ communities.”

Wang is recognized as a humble champion of the LGBTQ community. His philosophy of care has inspired a fundamental change in the medical culture.

“When I have residents come up to me and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I was able to start somebody on hormones. Their depression has significantly decreased. They’re really feeling they are a part of society.’ When they come in and tell me, ‘Thank you for saving my life,’ or ‘Thank you for helping me be the person I’ve always been.’ Having the resident provider to help support people through this transition is definitely the most rewarding,” Wang said.