HRC Blog

National LGBT Health Awareness Week: Doing the Rounds

The following post is from HRC healthcare consultant, Shane Snowdon:

I just had the pleasure of giving grand rounds at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in celebration of National LGBT Health Awareness Week. "The Mount," as it's known, is a Harvard teaching hospital, and there was a great turnout of physicians, nurses, and other staff for my talk, "A Whirlwind Overview of LGBT Health Concerns."

I'm always touched when busy hospital folks come to my LGBT health talks, but this one was particularly meaningful because I went to Mt. Auburn for care myself when I lived in Cambridge, and I remember how scared I was when I went there as a young lesbian, unsure what would happen if I came out to the staff! I'm delighted to say that the Mount not only turned out in force for my talk today but also just participated for the first time in HRC's national survey of hospitals, the National LGBT Healthcare Equality Index (HEI). It was clear that they--like more and more hospitals--are truly, deeply concerned about doing right by LGBT patients.

Whenever I speak at hospitals, staff who aren’t LGBT themselves are stunned to hear what LGBT patients experience--and worry about--when we go in for health care. You could have heard a pin drop when I described Janice Langbehn being separated from her dying partner because she wasn’t “family,” and how worried we can be about doing something as natural as holding our loved one’s hand, fearing that someone will notice and give us worse care. And they were clearly very concerned to hear about the bias that transgender patients, in particular, can experience, from openly mocking comments to physical roughness. Many came up afterward and said how glad they were to know what’s going on for their LGBT patients, and how much it means when they comnvey caring and competence.

I want to give a shout-out to Dr. Charlie Hatem, the internist who heads Medical Education at Mt. Auburn, who was very supportive of bringing LGBT training to his colleagues, and to Dr. Ralph Freidin (pictured), a Mt. Auburn attending physician and former HRC board member who is a wonderful ally and tireless advocate for LGBT health education (he's my colleague on the HEI's National Advisory Council). And now off to Portland, Oregon, to continue the celebration of Health Awareness Week with a keynote at the statewide Meaningful Care Conference—stay tuned for news from that great event out west!

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