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Rush kicks off ambitious LGBT-health initiative
by Matt Simonette
2020-01-21

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Officials from Rush University Medical Center marked the launch of their new LGBT-focused health program, Affirm: The Rush Center for Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Health, at an event in the facility's lobby the morning of Jan. 21.

Affirm combines "clinical, educational, research and community health initiatives to provide the highest standard of care to members of the LGBTQ+ community," according to a Jan. 20 statement.

The program is comprehensive in scope and will be integrated at numerous levels within the Rush organization, which is comprised three hospitals and over 30 other facilities. LGBT patients should expect culturally competent care at every point of service, said Christopher Nolan, Rush's community health and benefit system manager.

"It's thinking about how we as a healthcare system are best serving the LGBTQ-plus population," Nolan added. "While Affirm does have administrative space and clinical space with our community-based practices, the real goal is giving a place—all throughout the health system—for people to go, knowing that they have providers."

That includes navigation services to direct patients to appropriate providers, Nolan said. Another component of the program includes requirements for physician education; Rush University medical students have LGBT-related cultural competency integrated throughout their curriculum, rather than as a one-off unit as in many programs.

During public remarks, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said, "We know that health inequities exist, not only along racial, but gender lines [as well], and within the LGBTQ community. … All Chicagoans deserve to have compassionate and culturally competent healthcare."

State Rep. Greg Harris said that his office gets frequent calls about the availability of LGBT-centered healthcare and said the. Rush program would likely "change lives."

Harris told Windy City Times, "The best part [of the program] is that they're going to make it easy to access, not just in one location but across all the Rush practices around the county—that makes it so much easier, and more convenient and accessible, for patients to come in for their care and counsel. It's a wonderful resource for the LGBTQ-plus community."

Indeed, Nolan added that Affirm's goal is evolving "to be even more for the fabric of the community. The West Side of Chicago is the size of the city of Miami, for example. Of course, we'll partner with our colleagues at Howard Brown [Health] and Center on Halsted, but we want for people to receive care in the neighborhoods in which they live."


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