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School & Program Updates

South Florida: MCHSO Focuses 10th Annual Symposium on Adolescent Health

The University of South Florida College of Public Health’s (COPH) Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO) held its annual symposium on March 1.

The MCHSO educates, connects and creates opportunities for students interested in the field of maternal and child health.

The theme of this year’s event — its 10th — was “Reframing Adolescent Health.”

The symposium’s keynote speaker was Dr. Michelle Forcier, a pediatrician and director of Gender and Sexual Health Services at Lifespan Physician Group, Adolescent Health Care Center, in Providence, RI.

Dr. Forcier addressed the crowd on the challenges — and importance — of developing a culture that affirms and supports gender-diverse youth in the health care system and society.

“I look at medicine and public health as service professions,” said Dr. Forcier. “And my question is, are we doing our part?”

When compared to their cisgender peers (cis refers to a person whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth), Dr. Forcier says that LGBTQ+ adolescents and teens have significantly higher rates of:

“There’s nothing pathologically, diagnostically, morally, ethically or biologically wrong with gender-diverse and sexually diverse youth,” said Dr. Forcier. “It’s all about how our culture views them. Even a little decrease in rejection can have positive health outcomes.”

Dr. Forcier urged the audience to be vigilant when it comes to improving the health of marginalized youth.

“There are so many ways to intervene — don’t miss an opportunity,” she said. “How can we identify transgender youth earlier? How can we change the culture in schools? How can we promote family acceptance? Don’t underestimate your power as health professionals. These kids will be looking to you.”

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