Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality
Congratulations to Dr. Vicky Fraser and Dr. Chris Lewis for being named the Human Rights Campaign 2017 Equality Award honorees. Dr. Fraser, Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and Chairman for the Department of Medicine, has worked closely with Dr. Lewis, Instructor of Pediatrics and Director of the Pediatric Transgender Health Center, to advance Washington University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by opening a new clinic that offers a range of healthcare for transgender children.
by Willis Ryder Arnold
July 31, 2017
A group of St. Louis doctors is working to make sure transgender kids get the medical care they need.
When the Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital Transgender Center of Excellence opens today, it will be the first of its kind in a 250-mile radius. The clinic aims to provide transgender children with comprehensive health care including pediatric medicine, endocrinology, and mental health counseling.
Staff members will include people equipped to help transgender patients navigate hormone therapy — and understand their identities.
“This is really a vulnerable group of kids who need specialty expertise and people who’ve really spent the time to learn more about these issues and concerns,” clinic co-founder Dr. Sarah Garwood said. “There’s a problem with access to health care for transgender kids and adults and clinics like this can help mitigate that.”
The clinic’s staff members will see patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the St. Louis Children’s Specialty Care Center.
Such services have been long anticipated by St. Louis area parents like Peter Seay, whose child was long considered a girl but in middle school decided to identify as a boy.
Aiming to be supportive, Seay looked for a doctor to provide appropriate care. But finding one isn’t easy. Some doctors think being transgender is a problem.
“And I mean some doctors we called were like, ‘sure we can fix your kid,’” recalled Seay, who said that was a terrible thing to hear.
Dr. Garwood and Dr. Chris Lewis developed the clinic with help from Washington University Medical School, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and a growing network of similar clinics located throughout the country.
Families with transgender children face a number of hurdles when seeking care, among them insurance obstacles, Garwood said. Many doctors remain ignorant of proper care for transgender individuals and available support systems. Some patients face outright discrimination.
Garwood helped set up the clinic, motivated by an exponential increase of referrals over recent years. She said early intervention is necessary to ensure transgender kids lead the healthiest happiest lives possible.
Follow Willis on Twitter: @WillisRArnold
By Gaia Remerowski
July 27, 2017
The realization that it can be difficult for LGBTQ faculty, staff and students to connect, develop networking relationships and find mentors helped lead to the creation of OUTmed at the School of Medicine.
Recently launched by the Washington University’s Department of Medicine, OUTmed aims to support LGBTQ-identified faculty, residents, fellows and staff in the department and the school as a whole.
“It is important to be supportive and to develop new programs and initiatives that provide education for our employees, trainees, faculty and patients to promote tolerance, inclusion and equal rights for everyone,” said Victoria J. Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor and head of the Department of Medicine. “We also need to develop specific centers of excellence and medical curriculum to ensure optimal health-care delivery for the LGBTQ community to reduce health disparities and improve health-care outcomes.”
With that and more in mind, the group’s work is underway.
Led by Kara Sternhell-Blackwell, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology, OUTmed had its first advisory board meeting in the spring. Among the organization’s first activities was preparing for PrideFest, the St. Louis area’s annual LGBTQ community advocacy event and parade in June. The department was a corporate sponsor of this year’s PrideFest and supplied a supportive contingent of marchers for the parade.
Among the group’s other initial priorities was to create – with collaboration from LGBTQ Med, a student-run group – a listing of School of Medicine faculty, staff, residents, fellows, and graduate and medical students who identify as members of the LGBTQ community, and a list of LGBTQ community allies.
“One of the things that we became aware of was that it’s not always easy for LGBTQ faculty, staff and students to find each other,” said Sternhell-Blackwell. “By creating a visible organization and these lists, we hope to allow people to find each other and develop networking and mentoring relationships.”
Sternhell-Blackwell also is promoting the collection of patients’ sexual orientation and gender-identity information, known as SOGI data. Giving patients the option to include such information on their health forms can help patients, while also helping health-care experts to better understand and decrease health disparities for LGBTQ patients.
“We’re trying to bring national best practices in LGBTQ health care here to WashU,” said Sternhell-Blackwell, who is introducing the new questionnaires in the dermatology clinic where she works.
“If you know who you have in your community, then it’s easier to identify their needs,” added Joe Pangelinan, PhD, who heads the Department of Medicine’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity. Opportunities to include SOGI data were added to the department’s employee survey this year.
Sternhell-Blackwell said other ways to improve patient care include adding training for clinicians and staff on LGBTQ health issues; making the schools’ and hospitals’ physical spaces more LGBTQ-inclusive (for example, providing information about gender-neutral bathrooms); and creating directories and websites that make it easier for LGBTQ patients to find services they need.
The training portion is also a priority for Pangelinan, who is working on a “train-the-trainer” pilot program to help deepen trainers’ knowledge in specific areas of diversity and inclusion, including issues in the LGBTQ community.
To enhance medical education, second-year MD/PhD candidate Patrick DeSouza is leading a push to design a course aimed at increasing students’ understanding of how LGBTQ health disparities arise.
“As one of the LGBTQ Med leaders, it’s important to me that LGBTQ+ health is sufficiently addressed during the entirety of medical school education, to help the fight for equal access to health care, especially focusing on the disparity that exists.”
The response to these initiatives has been positive and enthusiastic so far, said Sternhell-Blackwell. “Everyone, from residents to staff to faculty to students, has been interested in participating and excited to give time and energy and be involved in different parts of the efforts.”
Added Fraser: “It is essential for the success of our institution to be fully inclusive, to recognize and celebrate our diversity and to ensure that everyone feels comfortable being who they really are.”
For the second year in a row, Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals have been recognized as “Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization.The honor is given to facilities that meet LGBT-inclusive benchmarks that are part of the HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index, a unique survey that encourages equal care for LGBT Americans by evaluating inclusive policies and practices related to LGBT patients, visitors and employees.
Both hospitals earned top marks in meeting non-discrimination and training criteria that demonstrate their commitment to equitable, inclusive care for LGBT patients, and their families, who can face significant challenges in securing the quality health care and respect they deserve.
“Cultural competence is woven into the fabric of who we are at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and is embedded in our mission and vision in providing exceptional care to people,” says Steven Player, director of the BJH Center for Diversity and Cultural Competence. The hospital offers ongoing LGBTQ patient care training to all BJH team members. If you have any questions regarding upcoming training opportunities, contact Erin Stampp, Center for Diversity and Cultural Competence education and development manager, Erin.Stampp@bjc.org.
“St. Louis Children’s Hospital values the diversity of our patients and families, as well as our employees. In fact, Embracing Diversity is one of the six core values of our hospital,” says Greta Todd, SLCH director of diversity, inclusion and community affairs. “We are committed to providing the best possible experience for our LGBTQ patients and families, and strive for a welcoming and inclusive environment.”
The hospitals are two of a select group of health care facilities nationwide to be named Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality. Facilities awarded this title meet key criteria, including patient and employee non-discrimination policies that specifically mention sexual orientation and gender identity, a guarantee of equal visitation for same-sex partners and parents, and LGBT health education for key staff members. More than 1,500 hospitals are surveyed, and only about one-third receive this Leader designation.
“Despite all the progress we’ve made, far too many LGBT people still lack inclusive and affirming health care. Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality are helping to change that, and, in the process, making the lives of LGBT patients and their families better each and every day,” says Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “LGBT people have a right to be treated equally in all aspects of our lives, and HRC celebrates Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals for their tireless work to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all patients.”
Scott Ragan, firstname.lastname@example.org