Maintaining Leadership in LGBT Health Care Equality through Research

HEI 2016_bug final-01As you may have  read, UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial and F.F. Thompson Hospitals were recently recognized as “Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation. Both hospitals earned top marks by demonstrating a strong commitment to providing equitable, inclusive care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients and their families.

John P Cullen, Ph.D., director of Diversity and Inclusion for URMC’s Clinical & Translational Science Institute and coordinator of outreach for the Susan B. Anthony Center, says that within the Rochester region, nearly 7% of people self-identify as lesbian, gay or bi-sexual, which is about twice the national average of other cities.

“As the largest medical center in the area, we have a responsibility to stay ahead of the curve in education, building awareness, and creating new ways to serve this population,” says Cullen. “It is a source of pride that there is greater understanding across the organization, and that the unique needs of the LGBT population are more front-of-mind and integral to everyday conversations.”

7005The accreditation was granted based on four core criteria that make up the Health Care Equality Index: strength of non-discrimination policies regarding LGBT patients and employees, providing equal visitation rights to LGBT patients and their visitors, and appropriately training staff members in LGBT patient-centered care.

However, the HRC has reorganized and augmented these four core criteria for next year’s assessment. One core will now focus on LGBT patient and community engagement with particular emphasis on conducting LGBT health research as well as HIV research.

These new standards highlight the importance of conducting research that addresses LGBT issues and including LGBT individuals in research, which is one of the many underrepresented populations that Cullen is beginning to address.

“The CTSI is committed to diversity and inclusion in community engagement and research participant recruitment,” says Cullen. “The integration of underrepresented populations into research studies supports the CTSI mission to improve public health.”

An historic 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) acknowledged that LGBT people have unique health experiences and needs, and that as a nation we lack a good understanding of what these experiences and needs are. The report also recommended that researchers engage LGBT people in health studies and collect data on these populations to identify and better understand health conditions that affect them.

Several URMC researchers are doing just that. Vincent Silenzio, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Psychiatry and Megan Lytle-Flint, Ph.D., senior instructor of Psychiatry, are using social media to better understand the factors that put LGBT populations at risk of intimate partner violence and suicide and to prevent these events. Charles Kamen, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, researches health disparities in cancer-related health outcomes and psychological stress among LGBT populations.

URMC is also home to the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), whose research address prevention, detection, and treatment of HIV/AIDS via development of vaccines, fostering outreach to at-risk populations that include LGBT individuals, and creating drugs to prevent progressive neurological issues associated with the virus. In fact, the Rochester Victory Alliance, a CFAR collaborator also housed at URMC, just began enrolling participants in a promising new Antibody Mediated Prevention (AMP) vaccine trial, which is the first to test whether an antibody could prevent HIV infection.

With a continued emphasis on research that addresses health disparities affecting underrepresented populations, Cullen believes we will “be able to maintain our leadership status in LGBT Healthcare Equality in the coming year.”

For more information about the Healthcare Equality Index 2016, or to download a free copy of the report, visit

For more information on the changing Healthcare Equality Index standards, click here.


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