Jonathan Nguyen hopes to change the way dental professionals perceive the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

In a 2012 survey of 3,000 self-identified LGBTQ Californians, dentists were among the top six health care providers to whom respondents would not come out. They were also among the top six health care providers to have rejected LGBTQ identities.

Knowing this, the openly gay Nguyen dedicated himself and his Albert Schweitzer Fellowship project to improving dental professionals’ cultural competency of LGBTQ patients.

“It’s not necessarily about trying to get dental professionals to ask their patients ‘What’s your sexual orientation?’,” Nguyen said. “It’s more about if the subject pops up, then you’re more aware of how you can talk to someone of that identity.

During his dental school career, Nguyen started the school’s first LGBTQ student group, gave cultural sensitivity lectures to Ostrow faculty and staff and participated in community outreach events, providing treatment to LGBTQ patients.

“We had a transgender individual who said he was completely denied treatment at a dentist’s office,” Nguyen said of a patient that he met at a community outreach event. “It was really sad because there were a lot of hopeless teeth that could’ve easily been managed had he had a better rapport with a dental provider.”

— John Hobbs