In recognition of LGBT Pride Month, the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical Center hosted a program and panel discussion on Friday, June 14, 2013. This first-ever LGBT-focused program, “pride 365: have pride year round,” was sponsored by the Medical Center’s Equal Employment Opportunity Special Emphasis Committee (SEP).
Rhonda Dennis, LGBT SEP Manager, opened the groundbreaking program with welcoming remarks. Medical Center Director, Joseph M. Dalpiaz, emphasized the Center’s commitment to diversity and strong support of Friday’s program. In addition to posters and flyers, every screen saver throughout the Medical Center announced the program. Dalpiaz acknowledged that some negative feedback regarding the program had been received by the administration. He reiterated his strong support of Friday’s program and the LGBT SEP.
A panel discussion on a broad range of issues facing employees, clients and patients of the V.A. Medical Center was moderated by Glenn Jenkins, LPN. The panel included Heshie Zinman, newly-elected LGBT Elder Initiative (EI) Board Chair, and the Medical Center’s Dr. Francesca Engel, Women’s Health Director; Timothy Kelly, Supervisory Program Specialist, Customer Service Coordinator; and Joan Ryan, Psy.D, Chair of the LGBT Inclusion Initiative for Behavioral Health.
The EI’s Zinman discussed the need for cultural competency throughout the organization so that LGBT Veterans receive the most professional and effective care and services possible. Zinman emphasized that the policies, procedures and environment at the Center must be made safe and welcoming for all LGBT people: clients, patients and staff. He proposed gender-neutral bath and locker room facilities and inclusive forms and printed materials as initial steps to achieving those goals. Kelly announced that the Center is adding four new Patient Advocates in the coming months to better serve the V.A.’s constituent populations.
Summing up the program, Dennis stated that, “The program was a success. We were able to provide a much-needed educational program open to both our veterans and employees. We were all able to work cohesively together, showing an inclusive and diverse workforce before their eyes. I am overwhelmed with happiness. It’s been a long time coming, but I believe the door has been knocked open.”
The LGBTEI congratulates Dennis, the planning committee, administration, staff, clients and patients for their service to our nation and for their pioneering work!