Cooper opens new LGBTQ+ health center in Collingswood, N.J.

Dr. Justin Schweitzer stands with physician assistant Ryan Kirker in front of the new health center in Collingswood, NJ. (Photo: @cooperuniversityhealthcare on Instagram)

The weather was cooperative for Dr. Justin Schweitzer on June 10 as he stood outside of Cooper Center for LGBTQ+ Health — a new office in Collingswood, New Jersey, directing lost patients to the building — which just opened on June 5. The practice, which was specifically designed for LGBTQ+ people, is run by Schweitzer and physician assistant Ryan Kirker — who are both members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Schweitzer previously led programs in the Jefferson healthcare system — where he helped to set up their medical practice for LGBTQ+ health, which is housed in Haddonfield. Then he approached Cooper with a new vision for South Jersey. He joined the team in 2020, becoming the medical director of LGBTQ+ health for Cooper University Health Care.

“It was actually the first position of that title in the South Jersey region,” he said.

The role allows him to focus on patient care as a primary care provider while also educating staff, students, and residents, and working within the Cooper healthcare system to improve experiences and advocate for LGBTQ+ professionals.

“So it’s kind of been a dream job,” said Schweitzer, who is gay.

Cooper University Hospital recently received a score of 95 out of a possible 100 points on the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index. The five points missing from an almost-perfect score are due to a lack of trans-inclusive offerings on insurance policies for employees, which Schweitzer said is being updated.

“There’s been a lot more excitement and elective involvement at Cooper than where I was at before, so that’s been really exciting for me,” he added. “Cooper is really just enthusiastic about the care that we provide.

LGBTQ-affirming providers and others within the Cooper community joined to march in the recent Pride celebration in Haddon Township, N.J, which shares a Main Street with Collingswood. It’s the largest Pride celebration in the South Jersey area.

“We chose Collingswood because Collingswood is such a diverse, friendly community,” he said. “Philly has the Gayborhood. South Jersey has Collingswood.”

The office has six exam rooms, a room for minor medical procedures, and a therapy room. The artwork included in the space is meant to evoke a sense of comfort and pride without stereotypical rainbows and Pride flags. To do that, art created by local LGBTQ+ artists was commissioned or bought.

“It’s very warm and welcoming, said Ron Forsythe, the senior practice administrator with the Cooper Care Alliance which oversees the providers who focus solely on patient care (rather than academic teaching or research).

Forsythe said that LGBTQ+ patients — who were previously being seen at other locations — needed a space where they could show up and know they’re automatically safe and supported. He said it can be hard to know if an office that isn’t LGBTQ+ specific will understand how to keep those patients safe from queerphobia, which is a major concern for those who have been mistreated in those settings in the past.

“Myself and the team members in the building could see a happiness on people’s faces — that they felt comfortable, that they knew the center was built with their specific needs in mind,” he said about patient reactions to the new space.

“This feels like an achievement for everyone,” said Forsythe, a gay man in his 50s, who underlined that the project is personal to him because of what he’s seen and endured throughout his own life.

Schweitzer and Kirker are both primary care providers, and patients can currently visit the Collingswood location for wellness visits, vaccinations, PrEP and PEP, STD prevention, gender-affirming hormone therapy, labwork, and other primary care services. The office is also open to minors — including those who have permission from their guardians to receive gender-affirming hormone treatment. 

Schweitzer had to learn about trans-affirming medicine on his own because it wasn’t offered during his schooling. He shadowed at CHOP’s gender clinic to ensure he understood best practices for supporting youth, participated in W-PATH initiatives, attended conferences, and pursued additional advanced medical training.

The new Cooper office now allows Schweitzer to more easily train medical professionals who want to learn about LGBTQ+ healthcare needs and best practices, as they can shadow him as he works. Residents can also elect to spend a six-week rotation at the office. Many of them don’t specialize in primary care but will learn about how to provide queer-competent care during their rotations.

“I was a learner once, and I was looking for this support and this guidance and this education — and I was able to find that, so it’s really great to be able to help out other physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other students,” he said. “Anyone that’s trying to seek this information and seek out how to better help queer patients is able to get that knowledge — and no matter where they go, they’ll be able to bring that knowledge with them.”

Schweitzer noted that the office will eventually be a place patients can see specialists, including plastic surgeons and mental healthcare providers — who have been highly requested by patients. The goal is to be as much of a one-stop shop as possible for LGBTQ+ patients to ensure that care coordination is seamless, comfortable and convenient.

He calls the new office a “flagship” location that’s important for the community because it gives them a home. But it won’t be the only place LGBTQ+ people can receive queer-specific care through the Cooper LGBTQ+ health network — which includes 20 practitioners across various specializations. 

Because the Collingswood location is a 15-minute walk to the town’s PATCO station, Schweitzer and Forsythe note that Philadelphians should consider the office as a possible fit for their needs. There’s currently no waitlist for new patients, and the train ride is under 20 minutes. Allies can also receive care at this location.

“We’re just there for everybody and anybody that wants primary care,” Forsythe said.
The Cooper Center for LGBTQ+ Health is located at 17 W. Knight Avenue, Collingswood, N.J. For more information about Cooper’s services for LGBTQ+ people, visit

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