“Everybody loves a parade.” I am certainly no exception to that old adage, and on Sunday, September 12, I participated in the annual Pride Parade, hosted by the Pride Center of Vermont in downtown Burlington. This is my third year representing the University of Vermont College of Medicine Office of Diversity & Inclusion. I joined with a diverse group of folks from the UVM Foundation, the UVM Medical Center, and others from the College of Medicine, in this celebration of not only PRIDE, but also the ongoing struggle for equality and the progress that has been made so far. Our group included students, faculty, staff, children and even a few fabulous canine companions.
After our group gathered, faculty, staff and students donned white coats and we began moving along with the parade procession. We carried bags of apples ( “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”), which we handed out to members of the huge crowds that lined Church Street. The response from the crowd is always such a treat–the smiles, the high-fives and thumbs- up signs. It’s hard not to feel like a rock star when marching in a parade!
Data show that gay adults report lower levels of excellent or very good overall health, compared to heterosexuals. Members of the LGBT community are also more likely to suffer from discriminatory treatment from health care providers, as well as inadequate care. Rates of diseases such as cancer, substance abuse and depression are also higher in the LGBT community. We feel it is imperative that our academic medical center participate in community events such as the Pride Parade, as well as to continue our ongoing initiatives to ensure that our UVM College of Medicine graduates have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to support and enhance LGBT health.
The first year I marched in Pride, there was a man in the crowd along the parade route to whom I handed an apple. He grasped my hand, looked directly into my eyes and said, “It is so good to see the medical school and the hospital out here. Thank you for your support.” I don’t think I truly appreciated the fundamental role that culturally competent health care providers play to historically underserved communities. When the work we do and the care we provide is truly inclusive of the needs of all members of our community, it makes a difference.