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By Dr Ann
YOUR ALMA MATER
It’s on again: the annual ALMA conference! “But what is ALMA?”
I hear you say. Well, as my skivvied friends from The Curiosity
Show used to say: “I’m glad you asked.”
ALMA is the Australian Lesbian Medical Association. Like the AMA with
a lemon twist. It was formed seven years ago in an attempt to connect
lesbian and same sex attracted female doctors and medical students
(and their long suffering partners). The focus of this dynamic and diverse
group of women is not only to support each other but to find ways of
improving the healthcare of the lesbian community.
You may have found yourself sitting across a desk from your new GP or
specialist and felt the anxiety of the inevitable questions about partner,
sexuality and lifestyle. It may surprise you to know that the doctor sitting
across the desk from you may have been through the same thing!
Many lesbian medical professionals deal with negative attitudes from
colleagues, hospital staff and even patients when it comes to sexuality.
Often the homophobic attitudes expressed are due to the conservative
culture of medicine, which, unlike other professions such as the law and
education, has been slow to evolve a respect for our society’s diverse
sexualities and lifestyles.
While there are so many areas of research devoted to women’s health,
the health of same sex attracted women had long been a blind spot for
most medical professionals. Only now are studies directed at lesbian
identifying women taking place in earnest. ALMA not only increases
access to this information, its conferences are a chance to workshop
issues which emerge in their day to day practice.
Over the past seven years conferences have been held all around
Australia giving lesbian medical professionals a welcome opportunity to
discuss openly the things that are most important to them as doctors who
just happen to be lesbian. This year’s conference, “Connecting with the
World: Lesbian Doctors at Work, Home and Play” looks set to continue
the great work the association has been doing for almost a decade.
This year ALMA will be in Adelaide from November 4-6, coinciding
fortuitously with the start of Feast. The venue is Carclew House, a
gracious old mansion in North Adelaide surrounded by beautiful gardens.
A weekend of lively discussion, workshops, panels, and networking
will be interspersed with R & R, art, music and feasting. Participating
organisations include The Feminist Bookshop who will provide a great
selection of reading material, local lesbian producers of gourmet delights,
and the legendary lesbian band Standard Deviations to entertain
throughout the weekend.
Many of you will have heard of Dr Ruth McNair, ALMA’s convenor. She
has been blazing a trail by researching lesbian parented families and the
outcomes for children and parents. This year she will be presenting the
findings from her research and practice in the area. Other speakers will
address topics ranging from the current political climate to the importance
of maintaining a balanced and healthy life (surprisingly, doctors can be
worse at this than most patients!).
If you are a lesbian doctor, medical student or partner of any of the above,
ALMA provides support and inspiration to continue working in the health
sector with the knowledge that you are not alone. If you are a lesbian
patient, know that there is a group of medical professionals who really do
have your best interests at heart.
For registration to Connecting with the World: Lesbian Doctors at
Work, Home and Play November 4-6 or more information about
ALMA, see www.almas.net.au.
Dr Ann is a doctor at a Sydney metropolitan area hospital. The opinions
expressed in this column are those of the author and are not intended as
a substitute for medical advice. If you have concerns about your health
please consult your health practitioner.
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