Rakhshan Kamran is a final year medical student at McMaster University. He is taking a sabbatical from MD studies to complete a DPhil (Oxford’s designation for a PhD) at Oxford University this Autumn in Musculoskeletal Sciences as an NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow and Clarendon Scholar (top 1% of Oxford students).
Rakhshan has been involved with health services research for six years, and LGBTQ2S+ advocacy since high school where he spearheaded the implementation of all-gender bathrooms in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and organized a city-wide Rainbow Prom.
He is a founding member of the Canadian Queer Medical Students Association (CQMSA), Co-Chair of the LGBTQ2S+ Health Interest Group with the School of Medicine at McMaster, and is a Trainee Lead with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Gender and Health. He is now working to develop and implement a new patient-reported outcome measure for gender-affirming care, called the GENDER-Q.
Thomas: What is your main career goal?
Rakhshan: My main career goal is to work as a surgeon-scientist in the clinical area of gender-affirming care and in the research area of patient-reported outcomes.
I am aiming to create a national patient-reported outcome measurement program for gender-affirming care. This will ensure that the gender-affirming care provided is patient-centred, and that the voices of patients are captured and used to drive care decisions rather than having the voices of patients go unheard.
T: How would you describe today's most pressing barriers to healthcare faced by queer and trans communities?
R: The primary mission of healthcare is to improve the lives of patients. However, there is currently a lack in ensuring that we are achieving this mission in a meaningful way, especially for queer and trans communities. We need tools that show us which treatments provide patients the greatest benefit from their perspective in a way that highlights the patient voice. Many times, for people who identify as part of the queer and trans communities, our concerns go unnoticed in healthcare visits, or our voices are ignored.
The key to improving the current barriers in healthcare faced by queer and trans communities is to highlight patient voice in a way that can be used to drive meaningful clinical decision making. Helping patients have their voice heard is the focus of my academic, advocacy, and community work.
T: How do you perceive equitable healthcare?
R: Equitable healthcare to me means individuals not being limited by factors such as their identity, geographical region, or socioeconomic status to receive high-quality and effective, patient-centred care.
Unfortunately, for us in the queer community, we must do a lot of research and use word of mouth to identify providers who have a reputation of providing us with high quality and non-discriminatory care. This should not be the case and we should not have hugely different outcomes or experiences based on the provider we see.
We can’t improve what we can’t measure – and I think that one way to achieve equity in healthcare is to measure patient outcomes and satisfaction as a first step to identify where there might be deficiencies in equity to then create targeted strategies to address this.
T: Could you share an example of queer and trans resistance that you found inspiring?
R: One of my DPhil supervisors and a Professor who I greatly admire, Dr. Anne Klassen (who is also leading GENDER-Q development) recommended a book to me by Samra Habib, which won Canada Reads, called, “We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir”.
The book outlines the experiences of balancing queer identity with growing up as an immigrant and as a Muslim in Canada.
Samra Habib also has a Queer Muslim photography project called “Just Me and Allah” which outlines the stories of queer Muslims in Canada through photographs. I found the book and photography project a very inspiring example of queer resistance as it brings to light the stories of people in Canada who are balancing their queer and Muslim identities.
Through highlighting the voices of a marginalized and minority population within the queer population whose voices often go unheard, I felt Samra’s work really spoke to me by making me feel like there are others like me – which is incredibly inspiring.