Five Questions With Public Health Registrar Rory McGill

Name: Rory McGill
Job: Public Health Specialty Registrar
Country: Ireland and England
Age: 33

Rory McGill is currently training as a Public Health Specialty Registrar in the North West of England. He is a health and social psychologist by background and worked as a Postdoc in academia upon completing his PhD in psychology from Queen’s University Belfast. Dr. McGill was born and raised in Derry, Ireland but is currently based in Liverpool, England. His research interests include the wider determinants of health and the practical application of the social sciences. His hobbies include all things horror and video game related, which can be explained partly by being a Derry native which is the global capital of Halloween! He is passionate about using his platform to engage with wide audiences about the causes of health and the importance of well being and connecting with others that goes beyond academic journal articles.  Find him on Twitter and Instagram.  

On his training as a public health consultant:

“Training to be a Public Health consultant is a very exciting opportunity! The training programme began specifically for clinicians to develop their specialty in public health and become consultants. However, this was then opened to health professionals with non-medical backgrounds as public health is more than just the treatment of illness or management of communicable diseases. It includes everything that can impact upon health, which if you think about it is almost everything from the food we eat to where we spend our time and how we feel. Having such a diverse curriculum means two days are never the same, which I love! I completed my PhD in psychology back in 2011 and had no idea what public health was. I worked as a postdoc within the field of psychology before taking an academic position in public health as it dovetailed nicely with my own research on eating behaviours. This experience made me certain that this was the field I wanted to be a part of. Being able to apply the academic theory in practice and see population health improve is so fulfilling!”

Dr. McGill was a guest on Homo Sapiens podcast with hosts Chris and Will. He talked about why our LGB elders are missing out on vital healthcare services. Listen here.

On one surprising fact about older LGB in your research:

“I am passionate about the health of our ageing population, particularly our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) elders. I am a gay man who is very grateful for the work our older LGBT generation have done in fighting for our rights to live as normalised and accepted members of society. However, there is a disproportionate focus on youth culture when considering the LGBT community. While this is a vital consideration, older generations can become forgotten about. My research examined the care experiences of older LGB people in Merseyside (UK) and their thoughts on the future. There is a lack of academic research and UK policy consideration involving older LGB people. The Office for National Statistics estimate that 2 percent of the UK population identify as LGB. Older LGB people experience multiple disadvantage living in a hetero-normative society, with poorer health outcomes than their heterosexual counterparts. This is worsened by a long-standing oppression which has shaped the interactions of older LGB people with informal (care from family and friends/social interactions) and formal care (medical care from a professional). The implication of this is widened health inequalities arising from sub-optimum care, yet little research focusses specifically on older LGB health. My research found that older people did not want to be defined by their sexual orientation. They wanted to be valued as a whole person when receiving any form of care or support, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it! What was surprising for me was the differences in viewpoint by gender. The older women I spoke to were not as accepted as gay men into the “gay scene” of the 1960’s and 1970’s, forcing them to develop their own close support networks. This resulted in a preference for care exclusively from female carers and in contexts predominantly female. This highlights that older LGB people are not a homogenous group and should not be considered as such!”

On making health systems inclusive for older LGBT:

“It is important to note that I did not include older trans people in my research as there are very important biological considerations necessary when serving our trans elders, such as training for healthcare professionals to carry out the appropriate screening checks, e.g. carrying out prostate examinations in older trans women. This is an area which needs to be explored more in depth! From my research, it was shocking to hear some of the care experiences had by older LGB people. Some older gay men were tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) despite not having had a sexual partner in decades, and older women having had pregnancy tests despite never having had sexual contact with a man. Their clinicians failed to hear them and tested them based on stereotypical assumptions which made them feel isolated, stigmatised and alone. This is completely avoidable and does not require huge investment for our overstretched healthcare services. Front line staff should treat anyone coming through the door as an individual and not with preconceived and outdated assumptions. Older people are vulnerable, and when you add any other minority status to ageing, it makes them doubly vulnerable and this should be a consideration within induction training for care staff, no matter what minority group it may be.”

On whether or not older LGBT care homes are needed:

“The idea of older LGBT care homes is a very interesting and contested concept. It has come about due the examples of older LGBT people having very negative experiences while being cared for. I read one case study about an older lady who was with her female partner for decades and who since passed away. She then wasn’t well enough to live independently and needed to move into a care facility. Her carer was reportedly homophobic and as a result, the older lady hid all evidence of her lifetime spent with her partner until she herself passed away. She essentially went back into the closet in the twilight of her life. It really stuck with me and got me involved in this research in the beginning. I was initially surprised to hear from my participants that a strong majority were very much averse to the idea of an older LGBT exclusive carer home. They wanted to be cared for alongside members of their local community and not “ghettoised” and isolated among only other LGBT people. They reported this would only magnify the “othering” they have felt throughout their lives. Considerable more research needs to be carried out exploring this before large financial investment is provided in establishing such facilities. In my own opinion, having a more inclusive care home environment with a kitemark signifying the space being a safe one for LGBT people, coupled with more sensitivity training would be an ideal scenario.”

On his future goals:

“My current goal for the future is to complete my training and qualify as a public health consultant. I then would love to be able to influence policy at a national level to help shape how we consider LGBT ageing in terms of both prevention of ill health and the inclusive treatment of illness. I would also like to highlight and showcase the diversity in STEM by being an openly gay man who can hopefully inspire others like me to pursue their own goals!”

Having a more inclusive care home environment with a kitemark signifying the space being a safe one for LGBT people, coupled with more sensitivity training would be an ideal scenario.

Dr. Rory McGill, PhD, MPH, MFPH

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