UPMC proudly provides care to any individual in the community, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ).
The LGBTQ community is known to face health disparities in both mental and physical health care. According to the Human Rights Campaign, fear of discrimination causes many people who identify as LGBTQ to avoid seeking health care, and even when they do, studies indicate that they are not consistently treated with the respect that all patients deserve.
“It’s important to have LGBTQ allies in health care because historically patients have been rejected by health care providers in the past. More specifically, about a fifth of transgender patients have reported being denied health care by their primary care physicians,” explained Gerald Montano, D.O., M.S., medical director of the Gender and Sexual Development Program at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “There’s this expectation that they are going to be rejected everywhere they go, so it’s very important to have allies to signal to them that they’re welcome, and that they can and should seek care before it becomes and emergency.”
Various UPMC providers have experience and training in offering health services for people in LGBTQ communities. Some services offered include breast augmentation, HIV/STI testing, birth control and gender affirming primary care.
“Providers often don’t know how to ask respectful questions and get caught up in language, resulting in many high-risk patients not getting the tests or screenings they need,” said Montano. “There are a lot of people within UPMC working hard to have care accessible to our most vulnerable patients. We exist, we hear you, we want to help you get the care you need.”
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital was the first UPMC facility to be recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as a leader in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health care equality.
“At Western Psych, we are dedicated to providing ongoing support and equal quality services to the LGBTQ+ community,” said Carol VanZile, L.C.S.W., director of Behavioral Health Regulatory, Compliance & Accreditation at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. “We have a long history of supporting LGBTQ+ individuals and we want people to know that they can always expect to be treated with dignity and respect, and we are firmly committed to working together to ensure that all individuals feel welcome whenever they seek care.”
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has also been recognized by the HRC as a leader in health care equality. The Gender and Sexual Development Program is accessible to patients up to age 26 for questions around gender and sexual identity development and transgender care. Providers offer clinical assessments, promote shared decision making around treatment options, connect patients and families to community support resources and advocates for safe, inclusive policies in school systems, health care settings and the workplace.
Across all regions and communities UPMC serves, 10 UPMC hospitals were designated as “Leaders in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality,” and 16 were recognized as “Top Performers,” by the HRC for 2020.
Additionally, UPMC has partnered with Smart Patient, a company aimed at providing a peer-to-peer online community for patients and survivors and their families to discuss health issues, share information, and support each other. The goal is to make it easier for members of the LGBTQ community and their families to learn from each other, while also helping UPMC experts learn more about what matters most to patients seeking care.
There are many local and national resources available to help support the health and wellness of LGBTQ patients and caregivers.
Persad Center—The Persad center focuses on outreach, prevention, counseling, training and advocacy services for LGBTQ communities and the HIV/AIDS communities.
Allies for Health and Wellbeing— Allies provides integrated medical care, supportive human services, and community-based education for individuals living with, or at risk of HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections.
Central Outreach Wellness Center—Central Outreach Wellness Center provides inclusive healthcare and resources for patients in Pittsburgh, Washington and Aliquippa, Pa.
Metro Community Health— Metro Community Health Center is an integrated medical, mental health and dental family practice offering services to everyone, regardless of identity, income, insurance status, or the ability to pay.
PFLAG Pittsburgh – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) works to educate, advocate and create allies for LGBTQ people. This resource may be particularly beneficial to parents with questions about their child’s sexual identity.
SisTers PGH – SisTers PGH offers outreach, accurate transgender education, trans inclusion training, advocacy and emergency housing/shelter for Pittsburgh’s transgender and non-binary community.
Trans Buddy PGH – Trans Buddy PGH provides emotional support and guidance in inpatient and outpatient care, transition-related care, preventative and acute care, surgical aftercare and support, emergency visits and scheduled appointments.
FamilyLinks – All FamilyLinks staff are trained on the topic of LGBTQ issues. Services range from outpatient mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment to supports coordination for those with intellectual disabilities and education for children whose behavioral or developmental health issues keep them from thriving in a traditional school setting.
PGH Equality Center – The PGH Equality Center is a community center that promotes education, advocacy, and social justice for all LGBTQIA+ people and allies in Western Pennsylvania.
CDC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health
National LGBTQ+ Health Education Center
Human Rights Campaign
National Resource Center on LGBT Aging
The National Center for Transgender Equality
For questions regarding LGBTQ clinical care at UPMC, email LGBTQHealth@upmc.edu.