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Rainbow flags fly higher in June as Pride Month is celebrated annually across the country. 

The red, orange, yellow, blue, green and violet colors forming that symbolic message are also woven into the organizational fabric at WellSpan Health. The heath-care provider consistently upholds equal treatment toward applicants and employees as well as care for the LGBTQ+ community it serves. 

Protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+community isn’t only a professional commitment for Kim Brister. It has personal meaning to her as well. 

“I have several intermediate family members who are part of the LGBTQ+ community,” she said. “I want them to be able to receive the services they need within our network of providers.”

Brister is WellSpan Health’s senior director of talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion.

“Professionally, I firmly believe that the true essence of diversity includes a tapestry of unique dimensions that strengthens our organization. The LGBTQ+ community is one of those unique and important dimensions.”

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Pride month: A year-round focus

Pride Month is celebrated for one month. It is a year-round focus for Brister, however; she leads an initiative that weaves sexual orientation and gender identity into the fabric of the organization.

Monday’s landmark Supreme Court decision made it illegal for workplace discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The court found that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects the LGBTQ+ community.

“This is great news and a huge victory for the LGBTQ+ community,” Brister said. 

The Supreme Court decision could shake up business practices across the United States. Brister said it won’t change anything for WellSpan, however. That’s because the health organization already follows the practice of being an Equal Opportunity Employer, including consistent and equal treatment of members of the LGBTQ+ community. HR Policy E-10 Employment – Legal Requirements and Considerations includes the following language: 

“WellSpan Health is an Equal Opportunity Employer. It is the policy and intention of the System to maintain consistent and equal treatment toward applicants and employees of all job classifications without regard to age, sex, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, culture, language, veteran status, disability, or any other legally protected characteristic.”  

WellSpan’s long-term strategy is to build an engaged, diverse and inclusive workforce of the best and brightest people. It was a big reason why WellSpan dedicated a leadership position which Brister assumed last year.  

In addition to maintaining a diverse workforce, WellSpan has convened a group of professionals to review and coordinate health care for the LGBTQ+ community. The group’s mission is to review current practices and identify opportunities to improve the way that WellSpan shares services and provides care to the community.

Respect for all

“One of our core values is ‘Respect for All’ combined with ourmission of ‘Working as One’ to improve health through exceptional care for all,” Brister said. “(It) helps to create the framework of the importance of ensuring that we are able to provide equitable and culturally competent care for our LGBTQ+ community.”

The LGBTQ+ Steering Committee is currently working on developing resources, educational tools and the ability to make it easier for members of LGBTQ+ communities to find the services they need within the WellSpan network. 

“We are relentless in evaluating our current state and discovering better ways to provide the services that are needed,” Brister said. “I want WellSpan to be a provider of choice for our LGBTQ+ community and I want there to be an ease of use when searching for services.”

One of those tasked with creating more health care avenues for the LGBTQ+ community is Douglas McCracken, MD, a family medicine physician with the WellSpan Medical Group. 

Expanding access

McCracken has focused on expanding access to LGBTQ+ health care, including transgender hormone prescribing and other services at WellSpan. 

He said WellSpan has put a particular focus on transgender care offerings by increasing provision of hormone therapy, coordinated with surgical and behavioral health services, and through residency training programs.

McCracken also referenced the 2018 Pennsylvania LGBT Health Needs Assessment. That study highlighted smoking, mental health and obesity/chronic diseases as the most significant health concerns across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. 

WellSpan also collaborates with Family First Health in the Caring Together program. That program offers HIV care in York as well as PreP (HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis) and STD screening, to promote health in at-risk populations.

“We continue to engage with community partners and our primary care practices to meet these needs,” McCracken said.

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