For Immediate Release June 27, 2024

Taking Pride in Pride

LGBTQ+ Pride Month is a time of celebration, self-love and community. Recognized each June, Pride marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, a spontaneous protest sparked by a police raid of the New York City gay bar Stonewall Inn.

“Pride Month has come to mean more to the LGBTQ+ community: feeling pride instead of shame for who you are,” says SIH Chief Health Information Officer Dr. Todd Guenzburger. “It’s a special time for visible advocacy for equality and justice for everyone.”

Much progress has been made for LGBTQ+ rights since the Stonewall Riots, but members of the community often face challenges when seeking healthcare.

“Members of the LGBTQ+ community have historically been met with discrimination, stigmatization, and lack of understanding from healthcare providers, leading to mistrust in the healthcare system, avoidance of seeking care and poorer health outcomes,” says SIH Director of Workplace Culture Jeffery Reece. “While there have been improvements with more inclusive policies and awareness, many LGBTQ+ individuals still encounter bias, inadequate provider training on LGBTQ+ health issues and limited access to culturally competent care.”

Jeffery serves on SIH’s Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), a committee of SIH staff and Southern Illinois community members who represent and advocate for patients. PFAC works with SIH leadership to educate healthcare providers and staff, create inclusive policies and be the voice for SIH patients.

SIH continues to create an equitable care experience for patients. Preferred pronouns and gender identity options have been integrated into electronic health records to respect the patients’ identities. All employees are trained on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and those in direct patient care roles attend deep-dive sessions. SIH has connected with various SIU affinity groups to foster an inclusive talent acquisition process. These efforts are crucial for ensuring LGBTQ+ patients feel respected, understood and safe in their healthcare environment.

“If our patients tell us who they are, we owe it to them to remember and address them respectfully,” says Dr. Guenzburger. “Knowing who your patients are as whole persons allows healthcare professionals to better give them the care they need. Equity is not equality; understanding how some patients are on different paths is the first step in creating a more equitable and healthy society. Addressing the diverse needs of a diverse population improves the health of the whole community.”

Patient advocacy is rooted in informed decision making. Analyzing patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity information helps SIH understand their unique healthcare needs and address any challenges they face.

“This data-driven approach enables the development of targeted interventions, policies and training programs that foster a more inclusive and culturally competent care environment,” Jeffery says. “For instance, tailored training on LGBTQ+ issues ensures that physicians and advanced practice providers are equipped to offer respectful and knowledgeable care, thereby reducing instances of discrimination and misunderstanding.”

SIH is committed to serving and advocating for all patients. By creating an equitable healthcare experience for patients of all gender identities, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities and backgrounds, SIH will continue to improve health outcomes in Southern Illinois.