Vanderbilts prescription for health care equality

Published on Out&About, by Ben Rock, July 1, 2012.

After five years of participation, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has achieved the status of “Leader in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health Care” in the Human Rights Campaign’s Health Care Equality Index. By meeting the “Core Four” criteria of the HEI survey, Vanderbilt is one of 234 hospitals and clinics in the nation and the only one in Tennessee to receive this designation.  

“Vanderbilt has a long history of inclusive policies and practices when it comes to caring for patients and supporting employees,” said assistant professor of anesthesiology Jesse Ehrenfeld of the hospital’s patient nondiscrimination policies, visitation policies, employment nondiscrimination policies and training in LGBT and intersex patient care.

“We didn’t achieve this milestone overnight,” Ehrenfeld said. “Rather, our designation as a leader in LGBTI health is a recognition of a concerted effort to make certain that all policies and practices are inclusive of LGBTI patients.”

Andre Churchwell, associate dean for diversity for the School of Medicine, said the status is a source of pride for the medical center campus.

“The leadership at Vanderbilt, including those at the highest levels at both the medical center and the university, have made this a priority,” Churchwell said. “There is an understanding that a broader definition of diversity is crucial for success, if you don’t have this broad view of patient and employee equality, success as a medical center is not possible.”

The announcement of Vanderbilt University Medical Center as one of HRC’s Leaders in LGBTI Health Care coincides with the launch of the School of Medicine’s new Program in LGBTI Health.

“I think it is safe to say that while Vanderbilt has always had a forward-thinking policy of inclusion, that there is a new articulation and emphasis on programming and developing resources around supporting the health of LGBTI patients,” Ehrenfeld said. “Going through the HEI certification process, we realized that these resources needed a defined home. We’re in the early formative phases of this program. We’re excited but there’s more work to be done.”

Having worked to address health disparities for LGBTI patients and been highly involved in achieving the HEI designation, Ehrenfeld will co-direct the Program in LGBTI Health with MD/PhD student Kristen Eckstrand … //

… This year’s survey found a 40 percent increase in rated facilities, which totaled 407 nationwide. It also found an impressive 162 percent increase in the number of facilities achieving the status of “Leader in LGBT Health Care Equality,” special recognition given to facilities earning a perfect rating by meeting four core criteria for LGBT patient-centered care laid out in the HEI.

The HEI helps hospitals assess themselves against established best practices and ensure that they are complying with requirements for nondiscrimination. These include a requirement issued last year by the Joint Commission, the largest accrediting body for U.S. hospitals, calling on all accredited facilities to extend nondiscrimination protection to LGBT patients.

More than 90 percent of HEI 2012 participants explicitly prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual patients, and 76 percent ban discrimination against transgender patients. Additionally, about 75 percent of respondents have a written policy explicitly granting equal visitation rights to same-sex couples and same-sex parents. This represents a significant increase since the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules in 2011 requiring all hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding – nearly every hospital in America – to protect the visitation rights of LGBT people.

For the first time, the HEI additionally required participating facilities to document that high-level managers in key work areas had received expert training in LGBT health needs. As a result, more than 1,000 health care administrators across the country participated in training provided through the HEI. However, there is still progress to be made.

“LGBTI health disparities are very real and must be addressed,” Ehrenfeld said, addressing his hopes for Vanderbilt’s Program in LGBTI Health. “The national Lambda Legal survey in 2010 reported that 56 percent of LGB and 70 percent of transgender patients reported bias or discrimination when accessing health care. I hope that we are able to inspire others, in Tennessee and across the nation, to join us in supporting LGBTI patients.”

He and Eckstrand said Vanderbilt is working to produce important research and will be applying for further research grants in this area. Since national data has also shown 64 percent of medical students reported feeling inadequately trained to care for LGBTI patients, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has already integrated training of key topics into the medical school curriculum.

“This model has been successful at Vanderbilt and can easily be replicated at other institutions across the country,” Eckstrand said.
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center: the Vanderbilt medical complex, 1161 21st Avenue South  Nashville, TN 37212, is a leader in patient care, medical education, nursing education, and research;

LGBTI Rights in Uganda: A Call for Global Solidarity, on Huffington Post, June 29, 2012;

LGBTI Rights are Human Rights: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex LGBTI, on No Peace Without Justice NPWJ /LGBTI Program Overview;


Nobel Laureates, including Desmond Tutu, call for global LGBT equality, on Pink News, by Edmund Broch, June 25, 2012;

Chennai: Gay pride silenced by violence, on IBNlive, June 25, 2012;

Human rights defenders condemn police raid, on The Independent, by RUKIYA MAKUMA, June 21, 2012.

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