LGBT Health Alliance Launched at UAMS
By T.C. Elliott, M2 and
Nancy Dockter, MPH
UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs
A new organization, the LGBT Health Alliance, has formed on campus. The group, started by students, had its first organizational meeting in January. It is open to faculty, students and staff who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, as well as straight individuals who consider themselves LGBT allies.
The group’s broad goals are better understanding about LGBT health issues; a safe, supportive environment on campus for LGBT individuals, and communication and networking for the university’s LGBT community and its allies.
“As a minority group, the LGBT population faces a unique set of social, political, and personal challenges,” said T.C. Elliott, one of the group’s organizers and second-year medical student. “Without adequate support, these challenges can be difficult to navigate. While UAMS has made great strides to promote diversity, the LGBT community has yet to develop a formal place within our campus. We believe that by developing a formalized student-based organization, we can begin to foster the safe, supportive environment that LGBT students deserve.”
Already in the works is a plan to create an LGBT-friendly healthcare provider list to disseminate to the greater Little Rock community. By next fall, the alliance wants to have its steering committee, officers, and sub-committees established to work on LGBT health education for UAMS students and clinical care providers, community outreach, and UAMS policy, as well as to organize social events.
“We would love to see representation from each college with intent to plan and get some things accomplished,” said Riley Lipschitz, group organizer and second-year medical student.
So far, organizers are pleased with the support and positive interest from across campus, “from students to administrators,” Elliott said. “Our monthly social events provide a space for fellowship and networking, and as the alliance grows, we plan to connect with LGBT groups in Little Rock for greater community involvement.”
An LGBT alliance is something that has been tried before at UAMS, but then when its student organizers graduated, the group eventually dissolved. This time around, the hope is that engagement of faculty and staff, as well as the Center for Diversity Affairs, will provide the continuity needed to achieve its long-term goals.
“We want to make UAMS a safe zone where LGBT students, faculty, staff, and patients alike feel comfortable and respected; and to improve care of the LGBT patient by educating future providers about issues and barriers specific to the LGBT population,” Elliott said. “While the foundation of this organization will be rooted in support for LGBT students and their straight allies, we hope to also spark a meaningful conversation within UAMS about LGBT issues, including patient care, community outreach, and networking.”