Diversity Matters: LGBTQ+ Pride Month

June 10, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

Many faculty, staff and students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ+) often struggle to manage their identity and navigate their lives both at work and in the community. Finding people with common experiences and allies helps these individuals have successful professional and personal lives.

Van Harrison, Ph.D., a long-time faculty member in the Department of Learning Health Sciences, came out in his 40s — around 30 years ago. He said he has witnessed and influenced many positive changes for LGBTQ+ faculty, staff and students at Michigan Medicine.

“I had a positive experience with my personal doctor and workplace when I first came out,” said Harrison. When Harrison met his partner of 29 years, their relationship was accepted by his department, such as at events that included an employee’s spouse.

Harrison realizes that, even now, acceptance is not always the case for people who come out. Many still experience negativity from their family, work peers and health care providers. To help alleviate those issues, Harrison has been a leader in creating safe spaces for faculty and staff as one of the founding members of the U-M LGBTQ Faculty Alliance, a group dedicated to providing support, feedback and education to the entire U-M community.

“I appreciate the work that people who came before me did to create a safe work place,” said Lori-Jene Brazier, a chaplain with Spiritual Care who is also a queer person. Brazier, who began her career at Michigan Medicine in 2016, recognizes that leadership within Michigan Medicine also plays a role in creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ faculty, staff and students.

Bringing awareness

A common phrase that Harrison uses is “we don’t know what we don’t know.” This can lead to biased behavior, misunderstandings and overall negative experiences for patients, faculty, staff and students.

The group that is working to provide more education and awareness to LGBTQ+ issues is the LGBTQ+ Resource Group, sponsored by the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion (OHEI). The group meets once a month and is open to all allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community that are part of Michigan Medicine. The group is one of many resource groups OHEI is working to build.

“There are three major tasks that this group is carrying out — awareness, education and networking,” said Pedro Coracides, a project manager in the Office of Patient Experience, who helped launch the group.

For instance, the group is working to identify community resources available to patients and employees, including LGBTQ+-friendly swim clubs, support groups and other programs around the area.

Next, the team will identify ways to educate the broader Michigan Medicine community on issues that pertain to patients and colleagues who identify as LGBTQ+. Finally, the group serves as a way to bring together individuals who go through similar work or life experiences.

The Office of Patient Experience (OPE), in collaboration with OHEI and the LGBTQ+ Resource Group, is working to launch a variety of new initiatives focusing on improving LGBTQ+ care for the entire community.

“We will soon be debuting educational materials and other documents that will help clinicians and other employees provide better care and the ideal patient experience,” Coracides said. These resources will be stored on a brand new internal site dedicated to providing resources for providing inclusive care for the LGBTQ+ community. The site is sponsored by OPE and will develop over the months to come.

Stay tuned for more information regarding those materials as they are made available.

Along with the LGBTQ+ Resource Group, other campus resources include the Spectrum Center, OutMD and LGBTQ Faculty Alliance groups.

If you’d like to join the resource group or learn more about other available resources, please email patient-experience@med.umich.edu.

Gaining traction

The work around LGBTQ+ issues — both from the resource group and beyond — is gaining traction within Michigan Medicine.

The university recently expanded health coverage for transgender individuals. For faculty, staff and students, having access to quality health care for everyone is an important step in creating an inclusive environment.

The work of the Comprehensive Gender Services Program (CGSP) earned a Distinguished Diversity Leaders award from the university, and both the CGSP and HIV/AIDS program are treating more and more patients each year. Check out this story on Michigan Medicine’s Health Lab blog, which provides best practices for caring for transgender patients.

Additionally, Halley Crissman, M.D., M.P.H., earned an Evan Newport HOPE Award for her work creating a video series on improving care for transgender patients. Click here to find Crissman’s video series, which was created with the help of a mini-grant from OHEI.

“Amazing things are happening across the institution, and they are all helping make Michigan Medicine more inclusive for all,” Coracides said. “It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team members and the importance of the education and resources they are creating.

“The work we are doing now and in the months and years to come makes me proud to be part of the Michigan Medicine family.”

For more information on LGBTQ+ resources available at Michigan Medicine, click here.