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Hello, World! A Note from the Director of the Institute for LGBTQ Health Equity

Welcome to the first issue of the blog.  The Institute, as we like to call it for short, is the education, research and community engagement arm of Equitas Health. Equitas Health is a health care delivery system with 17 offices in 11 cities all across the state of Ohio serving 67,000 individuals on an annual basis. With nearly 400 employees, our parent organization employs nurses, social workers, physicians, pharmacists, HIV prevention specialists and a whole host of other staff devoted to taking care of the LGBTQ community, People Living With HIV (PLWH) and anyone looking for a medical home.

As the Director of the Institute, I am fortunate to lead a staff of 10 dedicated professionals who work with the same population, but who focus on education and training for health and social service providers and for community members who identify as LGBTQ. We like to think of ourselves as small but mighty!  In the two years since our formation we have trained over 5,700 providers in settings as diverse as a children’s hospital, an adolescent inpatient psychiatric facility, a home health agency, countless college classes and a veterinary clinic (as it happens, LGBTQ folks are more likely to own pets than heterosexuals!).

In addition to training those who serve the LGBTQ community, we also work with folks who identify as LGBTQ to prepare them to be informed and empowered patients.  Thanks to the insights shared by our very first intern, Ohio State University Medical Student JC Chen, we have collaborated with JC to create a series of Patient Empowerment Workshops focused on preparing patients to take charge of their medical care experiences. Combining this approach with our provider trainings allows us to address barriers to care from the patient and provider angle. Our ultimate goal is to reduce the many health disparities experienced by the LGBTQ community.

In future issues of our blog we will introduce you in more depth of each of us and the work we do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. We will also highlight the providers we train and the community we serve. On a personal note, I was driven to this work because of my identification with the L and the Q in our acronym. As a lesbian, queer, gender non-conforming woman I am acutely aware of the health disparities our community experiences across our lifespan. I have witnessed firsthand the discriminatory behaviors of health and social service providers, the anxiety and fear that accompanies the search for a culturally humble doctor, living without adequate health care insurance and watching my LGBTQ friend circle struggle with similar issues. As Director of the Institute I approach this work with an unwavering commitment to improving the health of my community. I hope you will join us on this journey, there is so much work yet to be done.

-Julia Applegate

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