Penn launches new LGBT program
by Angela Thomas
Feb 13, 2014 | 968 views | 0 0 comments | 89 89 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Penn Medicine recently launched an innovative, multidisciplinary program focused on investigating and improving the health of the LGBT community.

With its Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health, Penn is the first academic medical center in the city to address LGBT health across several schools and hospitals, and joins just a handful of similarly situated programs across the nation.

The program will focus on five key areas — climate, education, research, patient care and outreach — and will be implemented in the Perelman School of Medicine, Penn School of Nursing, Penn School of Dental Medicine and the Center for Public Health Initiatives.

Among its aims, the program will offer LGBT-focused training and advance LGBT awareness among faculty, students and staff; promote LGBT diversity in workplaces, classrooms and health-care settings; foster research on LGBT health issues; provide LGBT-sensitive patient care; and connect Penn and affiliated hospitals with the LGBT community.

The Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health is led by director Dr. Baligh Yehia, assistant professor of medicine at Perelman, who also serves as chair of the American Medical Association’s LGBT Advisory Committee and scientific chair of the national LGBT Health Workforce Conference.

Yehia said the LGBT community has been overlooked in health-care realms, which the program has sought to remedy.

“We are calling more attention to unique health needs of LGBT populations,” he said. “There are certain conditions that are more prevalent in this community and there is a lot of fear of disclosing one’s sexual orientation and gender identity to health-care workers, and some of those barriers have contributed to disparities in care. There has been more of a natural focus on LGBT health but most of LGBT care has been delivered in community centers. We wanted to fill that gap and become a local and national leader in LGBT care.”

Yehia said the program officially started in July and has been slowly rolled out.

The doctor has met with LGBT community members and leaders to build a coalition in support of the program.

Yehia is supported by Dr. Patrick J. Brennan, chief medical officer of University of Pennsylvania Health System; Dr. Neil O. Fishman, UPHS associate chief medical officer; Penn School of Nursing assistant dean for diversity and cultural affairs Nancy Tkacs; and Penn School of Dental Medicine director of diversity affairs Beverly Crawford.

The program is funded by a grant from UPHS and the Provost’s Excellence Through Diversity Fund. The two grants supported the hiring of a full-time coordinator for the program, Daniel Calder, as well as for a strategic-planning retreat that brought in more than 60 supporters from across the campus and community to discuss Penn’s program and similar programs.

Yehia said he sees the program having an impact far beyond Penn’s campuses.

“We have gotten positive feedback from students and staff, and we have already improved visibility, so people know that, when they are coming to work, school or patient care, this is a welcoming environment,” he said. “We are improving the care of LGBT individuals. We want to have that impact on the community in Philadelphia and provide a service and fill the gaps. We hope that, nationally, this will up the bar of LGBT care not just for the community but strengthening it in academic centers.”

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