SURF

Courtney Sarkin

Breast Cancer, Bodies, and Boundaries: Queering Solutions for Equitable Healthcare

My mother once told me: I tell doctors that my partner is my sister so she can be present during my appointments and hospitalization without prejudice. My mom, who identifies as an LGBT individual, was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a first year at UC Berkeley. Although the LGBTIQA communities are diverse and represent a wide range of identities, the discrimination and stigma surrounding these social and gendered minorities is common, including in healthcare. In the US context, discrimination and ignorance by health professionals create disparities in LGBTIQA health where health care, access, and needs are denied. Breast cancer is prevalent among the LGBTIQA communities, and there are many factors that have influence on why this community is often left untreated or receives poor health care. Little data is available on breast cancer in the LGBTIQA communities: my research seeks to develop solutions for better healthcare by exploring biomedical innovations that influence medicinal practices, law, and society. These methods, while meaningful, are limited and may produce interactions that may threaten the health and well-being of individuals. Through reflection on medico-legal structures, including the Affordable Care Act, and LGBTIQA breast cancer patients experiences, I will examine the ways in which current developments in healthcare continue to perpetuate systems of inequality that greatly disadvantage LGBTIQA breast cancer patients. Using feminist intersectional methodology, a holistic, collaborative approach, I hope to expand understandings of the human experience of breast cancer and bridge these health disparities.

Message to Sponsor

Thank you to the Rose Hills Foundation, whose support has given me the unique opportunity to explore new intellectual terrain by engaging with fellow peers, professors, and activists about scientific scholarship, healthcare law, and gender and sexuality. I am wholeheartedly grateful, and I will continue to strive to empower others and myself on a daily basis by showing mutual love and appreciation of talents, experiences, and perspectives through this research. Thank you very much to my mentor, Professor Laura Nelson, my loving moms and sister, and all of the inspiring people Ive had the pleasure of connecting with. This research is not only a personal learning adventure in which I get to explore my passions and creativity while pursuing social justice aims but also an opportunity to gain momentum for equitable care and treatment for all patients.
  • Major: Molecular and Cell Biology, Legal Studies, Gender and Women's Studies
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills
  • Mentor: Laura Nelson, Gender and Women's Studies