Task force looks to improve LGBT care at Temple

The Temple Health LGBTQ Alliance Task Force welcomed state Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine this week, who spoke to members about Temple Health’s LGBT outreach programs and the state’s LGBT programming.

The task force formed in September 2016 and has 140 members, including Temple Health physicians, students, nurses and staff. The coalition was formed after Temple Health scored low on the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index and failed to be named a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” that year. The founding task force members undertook the task of improving the school’s ability to support LGBT patients and staff.

One of its first acts was to improve Temple Health’s LGBT-policy language. The health system replaced outdated terms like “sexual preference” and clarified the definitions of gender identity and sexual orientation. It has also compiled a list of LGBT-competent health-care providers. On Nov. 29, leaders from the subcommittees spoke with Levine about the direction of Temple Health.

As Pennsylvania’s top doctor, Levine is accustomed to making major changes. She serves as pediatrics specialist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and as the chief of the division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders, a program she began herself. In 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf nominated Levine to his cabinet, making her the first out transgender woman to serve as physician general and the highest-ranking trans person in Pennsylvania government history.

Despite Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Senate, her nomination was unanimously confirmed. In her two decades at Penn State Hershey, she has worked as an LGBT liaison and mentor and presented many lectures on LGBT health care and outreach. At Temple Health, she offered her perspective on the task force’s goals and next steps.

One of the organization’s primary goals for 2018 is to open a clinic for HIV testing and counseling and later establish a full-time health center specializing in gender-affirmation surgery. Additionally, it expects to build a comprehensive LGBT health center over the next 10 years.

Temple raised its score on the HEI to 65 in 2017 and organizers of the initiative aim to make it to the top spot by next year.

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