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UMass Chan medical student serves as advocate, role model for LGBTQIA+ patients

Gold Humanism Honor Society member was inaugural recipient of the William Thomas O’Byrne Scholarship

Theo Eldore, a member of the T.H. Chan School of Medicine Class of 2024, was on his family medicine rotation when he realized the profound impact he could have as a pediatrics or internal medicine-pediatrics clinician. It happened during a meeting with a 15-year-old patient.

“He acknowledged the rainbow badge that I had. And he spoke to me about being gay and how important it was for him to see somebody who was proud and open and who was a safe space,” said Eldore, a member of the UMass Chan chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. “And I think that there is the possibility to be the only person that a child has in their life who is a safe space and who can support them and give them the information and resources they need in order to not just make healthy choices, but to embrace themselves and become who they are fully without that shame and without that fear. And that’s the role that I would love to play in somebody’s life.”

Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, Eldore first considered medicine as a career when he was 13 and his mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. She died two years later. His exposure to the medical profession and hospital setting led him to consider a future career in medicine, but he ultimately chose to major in politics at Mount Holyoke.

After graduation, Eldore spent two years as a science teacher with Teach for America in the Las Vegas Valley. In that role, he began to see himself as an advocate for the underserved.

“I started turning my attention away from what I thought was my future and started embracing ways that I could really make a change in everyday life just on the ground,” Eldore said. “This is also around the time that I was beginning to embrace my transgender identity. Through a group called Gender Justice Nevada, I mentored transgender and gender nonconforming youth. I can honestly say that some of my heroes are 12, 13 years old.”

Prior to applying to medical school, Eldore got a second bachelor’s degree, this time in organismal biology from Kent State University. He then enrolled in the Population-Based Urban and Rural Community Health (PURCH) Track at UMass Chan. In 2020, he was an inaugural recipient of the William Thomas O’Byrne Scholarship, awarded to UMass Chan students for contributions furthering the development of LGBTQIA+ research and community.

Eldore has been involved with QMass, UMass Chan’s LGBTQIA+ student organization, and QMass West, the expansion of the group to the UMass Chan-Baystate campus. He co-designed the Narratives in Medicine Optional Enrichment Elective, which explores narratives produced by members of communities historically marginalized by the field of medicine.

“I really believe that the reason why there are rifts in our society today is because we’re missing those stories,” Eldore said. “Once you actually meet somebody and hear their story and look in their eyes and get to see that part of their soul that they share with you, that’s how we can move forward and make change.”

In 2020, Eldore worked with Yasmin Carter, PhD, assistant professor of radiology, to help create a 3D model of post gender-affirming surgery anatomy. He is working with Tapestry Health Systems Inc., a community-based organization in Western Massachusetts dedicated to providing sexual and reproductive health care. For his capstone, he’ll be working in a mobile hepatitis C treatment van.

“What I would say to any student considering UMass Chan Medical School, but especially a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, or a transgender or gender nonconforming student, would be that there’s a lot of work to still be done at UMass Chan. But this is also a point where there are so many opportunities for you to have here,” Eldore said.

To hear more from Eldore, listen to this Voices of UMass Chan podcast

The Student Spotlight series features UMass Chan Medical School students in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing and T.H. Chan School of Medicine. For more information about UMass Chan Medical School and how to apply, visit the Prospective Students page.

Related UMass Chan news stories:
UMass Chan Gold Humanism Honor Society chapter inducts 36
Campus Conversation on LGBTQ health equity probes disparities and solutions