This past year, the University of Minnesota positioned itself as a national leader in shaping and promoting sexual health courses in medical schools across the United States and Canada. Eli Coleman, Ph.D., director of the Program in Human Sexuality, has led this push with his vision for a required national curriculum for sexual education.
Coleman observed medical school curriculums watering down sexual health topics and noted a decline in the number of stand-alone courses. If there were courses, he said, they weren’t required or given enough time. As a passionate advocate for properly educating medical students in sexual health, Coleman found this trend troubling.
“In the last ten to fifteen years, what I’ve observed could be considered a crisis. Schools have almost completely eliminated sexual health courses,” Coleman said. “This comes at a time when there’s a rising tide of sexual health problems in this country.”
Last December, Coleman organized the first Summit on Sexual Health Education to address this issue. There, medical school representatives from across the country and Canada discussed the importance of better sexual education and helped design the framework for a sexual health course for first year medical students. This course would then lay the foundation for an integrated sexual health curriculum throughout the four years of medical school.
“We saw the need for this training, and now the summit participants are looking to the University of Minnesota for leadership while reinvigorating their curriculums,” said Coleman.
A respected forerunner in the field, Coleman holds the first and only endowed chair in Sexual Health in the world. He is in the process of establishing another first – an endowed Chair in Sexual Health Education named after former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. This Chair will carry on the efforts of promoting sexual health education. Coleman has also founded a number of medical journals and has led various professional organizations dedicated to improving sexual education and research since joining the University of Minnesota in 1978. As he looks forward, Coleman hopes there will be a time when health care professionals are familiar and comfortable when speaking to patients about sexual functions and relationships.
“We are all sexual beings from birth until death,” Coleman said. “Our sexual health needs to naturally be a part of conversations about our overall health as humans.”
By influencing medical school curriculum on a national and international level, Eli Coleman is truly changing the game for medical students and their future patients. He envisions a health care culture that utilizes knowledge from medical school courses to spearhead today’s sexual health problems. As he continues to have a major impact in his field, Eli Coleman remains an essential part of the University of Minnesota medical community.