Dr. Raul Martinez gets it. Seeking medical care as a member of the LGBTQ community is hard.
Never mind when you’re over 50.
“A lot of [my patients] have not had happy experiences with doctors,” Martinez said. “I want to break that cycle for them. I want them to feel comfortable.”
Martinez, 47, a Cuban native who immigrated to the states in the early 2000s, is an internist with Conviva Care Center. He’s also an out and proud gay man whose intimate understanding of the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community informs how he interacts with his patients.
“With LGBTQ+ patients, in particular, I want them to be able to speak openly, to say whatever they are concerned about, and not worry about being judged,” Martinez said.
“I want to connect with them.”
He estimates that 5-10% of his patients identify as LGBTQ. Nearly all are over 50, and many have suffered discrimination in the course of seeking medical care.
One such patient, a lesbian woman who Martinez saw for the first time two weeks ago, is a prime example.
“She told me, at the end of our appointment, ‘I never liked doctors. I always felt like I was being looked at weird, like they were being rude to me because of how I am,’” Martinez recalled.
A survey conducted by the Center for American Progress found that nearly 10% of LGBTQ people had been refused medical care in the last year because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. That number jumped to 29% for those identifying as transgender.
Medical issues, too, according to Martinez, arise from such negative treatment, the likes of which mirror what many LGBTQ people experience in their day-to-day lives.
“The stress of it all … dealing with [discrimination in their daily lives] … the way many of my patients medicate is through alcohol and smoking. Drugs are there, too.”
According to a 2022 NY Times article, among other ailments, increased rates of heart disease are prevalent among the LGBTQ population.
Alcohol, smoking, and the use of certain types of drugs, are cited as main causal factors.
As for treating these — and the other conditions he sees — Martinez says, the methods available to him are “pretty standard,” regardless of how a patient identifies. It’s how he delivers the treatment which ultimately differs.
“It’s really making sure [my LGBTQ+] patients don’t feel like what I’m saying or doing is related to any difference they have,” Martinez said.
Conviva Care Center, who employs Martinez, offers all of its staff diversity training aimed at ensuring patients of all backgrounds and preferences receive high-quality, compassionate care. Martinez says he found such training insightful, and believes it has been effective in that he’s never experienced a co-worker treating a patient (or colleague) in a discriminatory manner.
Mostly, though, what he says he relies upon in treating LGBTQ patients is what he knows from his own experience as a member of the community.
“We’re already minorities,” Martinez said. “We don’t need to be reminded. Especially not from our doctors.”
Conviva Care Center has multiple locations throughout South Florida. Dr. Raul Martinez-Perez works out of the Dania Beach office and can be contacted at (954)466-1120.
For more information, or to locate other Conviva Care Center locations, visit:www.convivacarecenters.com.