Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 84–99 | Cite as

Teaching and Learning About Sexual Diversity Within Medical Education: the Promises and Pitfalls of the Informal Curriculum

  • Marie MurphyEmail author


Although there has been a great deal of attention to medical education concerning sexual diversity in recent years, it has focused nearly exclusively on the content presented within the formal curriculum, i.e., medical schools’ required classes and other official offerings. In this article I examine the teaching and learning about sexual diversity that occurred within the informal curriculum of a top 20 US medical school. Previous research has found that the informal milieu of medical education is a site where sexual minority medical students may experience marginalization, and I found that this continues to be the case. However, I also argue that this aspect of medical education has the potential to be a very powerful form of curriculum concerning sexual diversity. The (in)visibility of sexual diversity within the interactions that comprise the informal curriculum shaped what all students, regardless of their own sexual identity, learned about sexual diversity and its place within the medical profession. Additional ethnographic research on the informal curricular processes that produce knowledge and understandings about sexual diversity in medical education may inform the development of robust policy interventions to ensure a more equitable environment for sexual minority members of the medical profession, and perhaps ultimately, more equitable, effective care of sexual minority patients.


Medical education Sexual diversity Informal curriculum Sexuality-related inequalities 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author has no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study, which involved human participants, were in accordance with the ethical standards of the relevant institutional review boards, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PRL Institute for Health Policy StudiesUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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