Health Center moves forward with more LGBTQ inclusiveness

Tandra Smith and Blakeley Bartee

Georgia Southern University’s Health Center is currently in the process of becoming more inclusive to LGBTQ students on campus. The center has a plethora of plans that they hope to be able to complete before the Fall 2016 semester begins.

“[We will be] updating our intake form questions related to gender identity, developing a way to sensitively steer and direct LGBTQ patients to specific providers in Health Services, and continuing to increase our staff’s comfort level and level of professionalism when interacting with all of our patients,” Brian DeLoach PhD., Medical Director for GSU Student Health Services, said.

Along with the list above, the health center will be identifying and developing referral sources for LGBTQ students who have needs that exceed the scope of a primary care student health center and establishing ways for transgender/transitioning patients, under the care of a private physician, to have some of their labs and medication administered at the center.

“Specialty care can be a challenge in a semi-rural area like Statesboro, especially for transgender or transitioning patients, because there are very few medical providers in our state and in the Southeast who are providing gender reassignment surgery and hormonal manipulation for transgender patients,” DeLoach said.

The process of the center becoming more inclusive did not begin recently. It has been an ongoing mission for several years, ever since a large portion of the staff participated in Safe Space training, a type of training designed to help individuals become more supportive of the LGBTQ community.

The issue was reignited lately when DeLoach was approached by a student with specific concerns regarding inclusiveness for a particular group.

“I was contacted several weeks ago by a student who expressed some concerns specifically related to our inclusiveness pertaining to transgender/transitioning individuals. I followed up with that student shortly after being contacted by them and the student and I were able to sit down and discuss those concerns,” DeLoach said. “The student and I plan to meet regularly over the next several months to review our progress as we work towards improving the clinical experience.”

As the plans begin to roll out, the health center will be adding information on their website and the Online Student Health portal. In addition, the coordinator of Health Education and Promotion will be reaching out to various groups on campus like the Gay Straight Alliance to share the inclusiveness message. The center will also be working on a plan to include information for LGBTQ students about LGBTQ healthcare in their promotional information.

“I would say that Health Services is probably one of the most progressive and inclusive medical practices in our entire region of the state, so we were all somewhat surprised to learn that we were not being perceived that way. I think what we need to work on are more [plans], which will improve how inclusive others view us as being,” DeLoach said.

Many students feel like the health center should be more inclusive and even the entire community as a whole.

“I think the entire campus should be more inclusive of all things—race, gender, sexual orientation, etc—and I personally think the health center should put their energy towards making health care more affordable for students, but better anywhere than nowhere,” Carolynn Nixon, junior political science major said.