The American Medical Student Association and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association announced last month that Bobby Kelly won its 2012 LGBT Health Achievement Award.
Kelly, 31, is a fourth-year medical student who will graduate next month.
Kelly has been an active member in Drexel’s LGBT health group and was instrumental in launching a coalition for local LGBT medical students.
He is preparing to begin his residency training in family and preventive medicine in New Hampshire, the next leg of his career, at which he arrived by a untraditional route.
Kelly considered a career in pediatric medicine when he was young but eventually majored in math and philosophy at St. Joseph’s University.
Upon graduation, he entered the education field, teaching middle-school math and science for several years while also attaining his master’s in elementary education from University of Pennsylvania.
While he enjoyed working with the kids, he said he was eager to put his problem-solving skills to a more practical use.
“I liked the learning and explaining part of teaching, but the content in an algebra class was just a little too dry for me,” he said. “There are a lot of things in common between education and medicine — working with people to figure things out and just helping out others — but I wanted to do something that was more relevant to me.”
Kelly got that chance when he entered Drexel.
After the chaos of his freshman year subsided, he took an active role in the university’s LGBT People in Medicine, participating in the club’s lecture, social and community events, and eventually becoming president.
In his third year, Kelly began organizing his fellow students to volunteer at Mazzoni Center, an effort that inspired the creation of a new citywide LGBT group.
“I started getting volunteers together from Drexel to help out at the adolescent health drop-in clinic, but I realized the pool just from Drexel wasn’t quite large enough,” he said. “Most of the medical schools in the Philly region, and there are five or six, have an LGBT health group, so I thought that we could get everyone together.”
From that idea came the LGBT Alliance of Students Organized for Health, which now meets monthly for panel discussions, workshops and other activities that seek to promote awareness and understanding of LGBT-health issues.
LASOH was one of the primary organizers of last year’s LGBT Health Student Symposium, which brought LGBT medical students from around the nation to Philadelphia.
There is a core of 20 very active students, and the entire coalition encompasses about 100 members, Kelly said. The success of the group has inspired similar coalitions in New York and other cities.
While Kelly said he’s honored that his work has been recognized by AMSA and GLMA, he is even more eager that the award sheds light on the potential that alliance-building can have on furthering LGBT health causes.
“It’s a great thing to be recognized by these national groups that do so many awesome things, and it feels good to know that people are acknowledging the fact that this work needs to be done and that it is being done,” he said. “A lot of what I have been trying to do is getting people together and pooling resources and working on collective things. I think that idea sometimes has trouble getting momentum because people tend to stay with their own group and not branch out, but I think collaboration is a great way to get things done.”
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.