College of

Addressing health care needs of the LGBTQ community

July 1, 2020

While medical school demanded most of his time, Mauricio Franco and a group of friends saw an unmet need in their community and sought to fill it.

Two years ago, they founded a Lansing-based organization called Queering Medicine and set up a website to serve the health care needs of the LGBTQ community.

“I am busy,” conceded Franco, a fourth-year College of Human Medicine student, “and I felt that if I was going to be busy, I might as well be busy doing something I believe is important.”

Franco recently received a 2020 Inclusion Award from City Pulse, an alternative newspaper in Lansing, for cofounding Queering Medicine, which he described as a grassroots organization created and maintained by many community leaders.

“For me, it’s a very high honor,” he said. “It validates that what we are doing is important. I also recognize I’m not the only one doing the work. It’s a collective effort.”

Through its website, Queering Medicine seeks to identify the health care needs of LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual) community members, provide them with weekly roundups of medical information in layman terms, and connect them with providers who respect and affirm their needs. The organization also collects donations for the Ingham County Ryan White program, including 500 handmade masks, thermometers, toilet paper and disinfectant supplies.

Franco, fellow College of Human Medicine student Wyatt Boothby-Shoemaker, Linden Brown-Wren, Daniel Wheeler-Pfau and Wilfredo Flores founded the organization, choosing to call it Queering Medicine.

“There was a time when ‘queer’ was taken as a negative term,” Franco said. “LGBTQ people have taken it as a term of strength. For us, it’s something empowering.”

Originally from Los Angeles, he now calls Lansing home. He plans to become a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases.

Although Queering Medicine is a community organization and not affiliated with Michigan State University, Franco said several College of Human Medicine faculty members mentored and encouraged him.

“All people should be treated well, and all people should be treated equally,” Franco said. “What I’m hoping Queering Medicine can do is underscore and highlight the needs of queer people. That ultimately for me as a medical student is important.”