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Campus Conversation on LGBTQ health equity probes disparities and solutions

Chancellor Michael F. Collins announces William Thomas O’Byrne Scholarships

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

November 03, 2020
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Theo Eldore
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Patricia Giunta

The fourth Diversity and Inclusion Campus Conversation, held virtually on Thursday, Oct. 29, focused on achieving LGBTQ health equity. Chancellor Michael F. Collins opened the session with the announcement of a new scholarship fund established by anonymous donors in honor of William Thomas O’Byrne, MD, a physician and faculty member at the University of Alabama School of Medicine and LGBTQ advocate who died in 2018.

“A brilliant and compassionate physician and a very gifted educator, he distinguished himself as an ardent and influential advocate for LGBTQ learners in the healing professions and biological sciences,” Chancellor Collins said.

Second-year School of Medicine students Theo Eldore and Patricia Giunta were chosen as the inaugural William Thomas O’Byrne Scholars, Collins said.

Moderator Kenneth Peterson, PhD, assistant professor of nursing and co-chair of the UMMS Committee on Equal Opportunity and Diversity, led the panel discussion.

“Our goal is to look at the wholeness of persons, to help make the LGBTQ community visible because there's evidence that it is invisible, especially in the health care realms,” said Dr. Peterson. “We hope that through the diversity of the stories, the shared experiences, the different experiences, we can offer a starting place for action steps toward improvements.”

Co-moderator Phil Berry, co-chair of the LGBTQ subcommittee of the UMMS Committee on Equal Opportunity and Diversity, introduced the four-person panel, all members of the Worcester LGBTQ community who shared their experiences and insights as health care consumers. Rush Frazier, Amora Andino, Joshua Croke and Kelly Balcourt shared personal experiences with health care and offered calls to action.

“All I've known is my obstacles and struggles with health care, so I don't know that there's something different out there,” said Andino, an LGBTQ advocate, artist and entrepreneur.

“It's been such a journey to try to get the health care that I need and learn how to be my own advocate,” said Frazier, a poet, community organizer and the Central and Eastern Massachusetts regional field coordinator for Neighbor to Neighbor.

Getting information about and referrals for welcoming, knowledgeable and competent LGBTQ health care providers and other resources available in the community was cited as a problem. Suggested remedies included requiring LGBTQ health care curricula for health care trainees, prioritizing social and emotional learning, providing trauma-informed care, and bringing together groups to share experiences.

Peterson cited several UMMS curriculum enhancements already underway and planned while acknowledging there is much work to be done. Berry reviewed community resources in Worcester.

Jules Trobaugh, MFA, diversity manager for the Medical School, invited all to sign on to the UMMS Pride List . Peterson asked participants to submit further questions via email.

One more Campus Conversation is coming up:

Nov. 5: A Campus Conversation on How to Be an Antiracist, with guest facilitator Michael Hyter, chief diversity officer, Korn Ferry.