Howard Brown Health Chief Operating Officer and Physician Assistant Kristin Keglovitz Baker's life changed forever when she met her now-wife Bridget Baker at Pennsylvania's Camp Dreamcatcher in 2004.
"It is a camp for children and young people infected or affected by HIV," said Keglovitz Baker. "We were both volunteer camp counselors who took care of the teen girls there. It was such a rewarding and pivotal learning experience that inspired me to do clinical work in HIV from then on."
While working at the camp, the couple formed a friendship that blossomed into a long-distance romance when Keglovitz Baker returned to California and Baker to Chicago.
"After many late-night phone calls and visiting one another in our respective cities, I decided to move back home to Chicago to be closer to Bridget," said Keglovitz Baker. "We got married in 2007 and had our first children, twin girls Caitlin and Ryan, in 2009. We were the first gay wedding at Gaelic Park on the Far South Side of Chicago and were joined by 350 of our friends and family for a wonderful day."
Their family grew from there and now they have six girlsCaitlin and Ryan ( 9 ), Nora ( 7 ), Mary Fionn ( 5 ) and Eireann and Molly ( 3-year-old twins ). Keglovitz Baker describes their family life as full of laughter, joy, chaos, activity and lots of chatter.
"While working at Dreamcatcher with kids who had some pretty tough issues in their lives, it was easy to see that Kristin wanted to be a part of helping all of the campers live their best lives," said Baker. "She brought out the best in me as well and I did not want to let that go. Now we are raising a family and living the life we dreamt."
"Our family loves road trips," said Keglovitz Baker. "This past summer we road-tripped to a campout in Michigan for LGBT families and had a blast. There is not one ounce of room in our car for anything but us. We also have a 110-pound mastiff rescue dog because why not when you already have six kids."
Keglovitz Baker grew up in Chicago near O'Hare Airport with her brother. After their parents divorced, they were raised primarily by their mom. At a young age, Keglovitz Baker dreamed of working in the healthcare field. She was able to get her feet wet as a nursing care tech when she was a teenager. She also worked as a caddy at Ridgemoor Country Club, where she discovered the full-ride Chick Evans Scholarship.
"I would not have been able to go to college without financial help so when I found out I got the scholarship I was so happy," said Keglovitz Baker. "I went to Marquette University where I received a BS in biochemistry and a master's degree in physician assistant study."
Just after graduation, Keglovitz Baker was accepted as a scholar with the National Health Service Corps. That work brought her to California's rural central valley where she provided primary care services for Latinx and migrant farm worker patients.
"I loved the work so much that I stayed for an additional two years but my budding romance with Bridget called me back to Chicago," said Keglovitz Baker.
When Keglovitz Baker returned to Chicago, she got a job at PrimeCare Community Health and then in 2006 she moved to Howard Brown.
"I wanted to work closer to the community I live and love in, and had a huge interest in how I could contribute my talents to a healthier LGBTQ community," said Keglovitz Baker. "I heard about them from Bridget and applied for the provider position. From day one, I knew it was the place I belonged. It is the perfect balance of deep community commitment that also satisfies my professional goals. I love being both an administrator and clinician because it keeps me very connected to the work and our community."
LGBTQ care, women's health, HIV medicine, health promotion and interdisciplinary medical care for populations at risk are the focus of Keglovitz Baker's work at Howard Brown. She explained that she has a "deep passion" for the communities she works with and these are the areas that are closest to her heart. Devising plans to improve service delivery is one way she stays energized by her work. Additionally, the feedback she receives from patients and the community at large has helped her grow in her roles.
Some of the projects Keglovitz Baker has spearheaded at Howard Brown are rapid HIV opt-out testing, expansion of the sexual/reproductive health walk-in clinic, alternative insemination and the call center launch. Keglovitz Baker said she is proud of Howard Brown's clinical service expansion into areas of Chicago that it did not previously serve, especially locations on the South Side.
Recently, Keglovitz Baker and others at Howard Brown hired The Morten Group to gather data for their Women's Health Care Assessment report. She also worked on the survey tool so it would reach a wider audience geographically, demographically and across all ages.
"Women's Health Manager Amy Miller and Social Services Director Liz Weck were the visionaries behind the report," said Keglovitz Baker.
The report contains feedback from the community on where they should go next for women's health, what they are doing well and what they are missing out on with certain initiatives. It will be released at Howard Brown's Midwest LGBTQ Health Symposium, which will take place Sept. 14-15 at the JW Marriott Chicago.
"I am excited to help integrate the results into Howard Brown's approach to women's health," said Keglovitz Baker.
She added the symposium will feature "a great line-up of guest speakers including Harvard Medical School LGBT Program Director, former Chicagoan and iconic lesbian Jessica Halem; NYU School of Medicine's Dustin T. Duncan and six exciting tracks that will cover best practices for LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare for both new and seasoned health professionals."
"I never imagined I would have six kids and a best friend by my side but feel so lucky that I do," said Keglovitz Baker. "Not only does my home life provide me with a lot of meaning, so does the work I do at Howard Brown. I strive to serve in my leadership role with humility, grace and the hope that we can achieve equity in health in our community across demographics, age and geographic areas. I am always learning, especially from the patients and clients we serve."
See events.bizzabo.com/MLHS2018/home for more information. Registration will also be available at the symposium.