Annual conference on LGBT health comes to Philadelphia

Annual conference on LGBT health comes to Philadelphia

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The current political climate will be a topic of discussion next week at a conference dedicated to LGBT health issues.

GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, will host its 35th Annual Conference on LGBT Health at the DoubleTree Philadelphia Center City.

The Sept. 13-16 conference will explore the theme “From Resistance to Resilience: Filling the Gaps in LGBT Health Care and Research.” GLMA Executive Director Hector Vargas said the organization developed this theme following last year’s presidential election.

“I think it was important for us to adopt that theme given the uncertainty that we were seeing back in November,” Vargas said. “Now I think having selected that theme, we can see that there is pretty much a full-on assault on LGBT health concerns by the Trump administration.”

Vargas noted the administration’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, rescinding of the measure’s nondiscrimination aspects and the repeal of the policy allowing transgender people to serve in the military.

“All of these things have an impact on our community and have definite health implications for LGBT people, so those are some of the things we are going to try to address in our conference,” Vargas said.

More than 400 people from around the world are expected to attend the annual traveling conference. Participants will represent a range of health disciplines such as physicians, nurses and social workers.

Vargas said this is the first time the conference will be held in Philadelphia.

“Well over half of medical students and residents in the U.S. make their way through Philadelphia at some point of their medical training,” Vargas said. “There’s definitely a huge attraction and affinity for many of our members who did some sort of training with a medical school in Philadelphia. And clearly, you have a very vibrant LGBT community and LGBT neighborhood. Obviously, things like the William Way LGBT Community Center and Mazzoni Center, that have been around for many years, serve as a good base for us in terms of getting people to attend our conference who are interested in learning more about LGBT health.”

Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s acting secretary of health and physician general, will provide keynote welcome remarks Sept. 13 and will be honored at the GLMA Achievement Awards Gala Sept. 16.

The transgender woman spearheaded efforts of a statewide standing order for naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Additionally, she led a workgroup for the governor’s office to create LGBT-inclusive programs and processes. Vargas said the GLMA board was honored to select Levine, who was not immediately available for comment, as one of the award recipients.

“I think she serves as an outstanding role model for not just physicians, but for all LGBT health-care professionals,” Vargas said. “We were very excited to be in Pennsylvania to have the opportunity to hear from her and the welcome remarks that she is going to provide. She has used her training and her influence that she has had to improve the health and well-being of LGBT people.”      

While GLMA is celebrating its 35th anniversary as an organization, one of its programs will also celebrate a milestone. The Lesbian Health Fund will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a dance party and charity auction 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Doubletree. The annual event will raise funds for research and grants to improve the health and well-being of lesbians and sexual-minority women.

“Since its founding, we have been able to provide over $900,000 worth of research to fund roughly 120 research studies,” Vargas said. “It has moved the needle in issues related to health, not only of lesbians but of the entire LGBT community.” Overall, Vargas said the conference is the “premier scientific gathering devoted to discussion of LGBT health.”

“If you’re interested in any aspect of health and health care for LGBT people, the GLMA Annual Conference on LGBT Health is the place to come for that information,” Vargas said.


In town for GLMA? Check out these sites: 

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s 35th Annual Conference on LGBT Health comes to Philadelphia Sept. 13-16 at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 237 S. Broad St. This medical event brings together physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, health specialists, social workers, dentists, pharmacists and a wide range of other health-care professionals who are interested in improving health for LGBT individuals.

If you are attending the conference and your fascination with all things medical knows no bounds, definitely check out the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 S. 22nd St. Open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., it is widely regarded as America’s finest museum of medical history, displaying its preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models and medical instruments in a 19th-century setting. With exhibitions titled “Innovations in Spinal Surgery,” “Hyrtl Skull Collection” and “Injury, Death and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia,” we’re guessing there’s enough to keep your attention at the very least on an academic level, if not morbid curiosity.

For a more in-depth look into Philadelphia’s history of medicine, take the Hammer To The Head Tour, a three-hour walking tour for small groups that explores the evolution of modern medicine in America, from the colonial period through the 19th century. It includes stops at Christ Church Burial Ground, Physick House, Pennsylvania Hospital and the aforementioned Mütter Museum. Tours are available Sept. 13 and 14. For more information or to make reservations, visit


— Larry Nichols

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