LGBTQ Health Advocate
Columbus Public Health
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” It’s become a mantra I’ve come to live by. It is the starting of and building upon conversations that matter that truly leads to change. This mantra is even more present as I head into the LGBTI Health Research Conference today though Saturday at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.
As the LGBTQ Health Advocate for the City of Columbus in Ohio, a seasoned journalist and full-time activist, I often find myself in the midst of important conversations. Conversations about improving the health of gender and sexually diverse communities, and how we can increase access to care for deeply marginalized populations. I was hired by the city just over a year ago to create the Columbus Public Health LGBTQ Health Initiative and in our first year we’ve already made massive impact with the development of our Ohio LGBTQ Youth Safety Summit, implementation of citywide healthcare provider-focused LGBTQ cultural competency training and the creation of a robust community engagement platform, just to name a few. To say LGBTQI healthcare is a passion of mine would be a gross understatement.
The LGBTI Health Research Conference will be an excellent opportunity to bring the best minds in the field together around the healthcare issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex populations, which I hope will lead to helping decrease health disparities of LGBTI individuals in places like my Midwestern hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
“It is hard to download all that is known about LGBT health in a day and a half, but we are really interested in getting people together to build connections that will hopefully lead to building more work towards LGBT healthcare,” said Dr. Emilia Lombardi during a phone interview leading up to the conference. Dr. Lombardi is an Assistant Professor within Baldwin Wallace University’s Department of Public Health and one of the conference’s lead organizers.
Dr. Lombardi went on to tell me she’s been working with supporters such as Cleveland State University and MetroHealth Medical Center for more than a year to bring the university’s first conference focused on LGBTI health to fruition. Prestigious presenters from the National Institutes of Health, Harvard Medical School, The National LGBT Health Education Center and Fenway Health are just a few of the organizations presented on the schedule.
Dr. Lombardi said the Institute of Medicine’s groundbreaking 2011 report, “The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding,” (commissioned by the National Institutes of Health) was a major step by the federal government that led to the creation of the conference.
“NIH asked the Institute of Medicine to bring together experts in LGBT health to discuss the need,” she said. “The NIH has even put forth a new effort to support more LGBT-related health research. It’s very encouraging to know that our federal government supports us.”
I arrived in Cleveland to a beautiful reception at MetroHealth with a keynote by the health institution’s CEO, Dr. Akram Boutros, which is no surprise as MetroHealth has housed one of the nation’s leading LGBT health clinics for nearly a decade. Though I’m definitely impressed by the high-caliber of speakers BW was able to procure for their first LGBT health conference. I’m looking forward to an unprecedented weekend of immersion into the health research of LGBTI communities. (With maybe a little Gay Games fun as a side bonus.) Continue to check this blog for more coverage of the conference from me and a few colleagues as this amazing weekend continues!