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UIHC opens state's first LGBTQ clinic in new Iowa River Landing spot

BY BRIANNA JETT | OCTOBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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It is called health-care disparities.

Even when a person goes to the same doctor, with the same problem, some are left with a different outcome, often due to either discrimination or lack of education.

Today, people facing this discrimination are often found within the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning community, both across the nation and here in Iowa City.

For the first time in Iowa, a health-care clinic geared toward the LGBTQ community has opened its doors. Located in the new Iowa River Landing Clinic, the clinic is led by Nicole Nisly, a University of Iowa clinical professor of internal medicine.

“I really hope that we can provide a place that the folks from the LGBTQ community have where they can feel assured they will get sound medical care,” said Katherine Imborek, a UI clinical assistant professor of family medicine.

Imborek will join Nisly in January as the second doctor of the clinic.

The clinic came about when Nisly and Imborek noticed the health-care disparities for those in the LGBTQ community and decided to create a place in which those community members can feel safe while seeking medical help.

“[The clinic] is absolutely critical for the people who are not seeking health care — because of their fears, because of discrimination, because of a history of oppression — that they feel somebody cares,” said Jefri Palermo, the co-head of the LGBT staff and faculty association. “They are saying, ‘You are welcome here. Come in the door. We have created this for you; we have educated ourselves for your needs.’ ”

Officials said disparities arise in the nation’s health-care system due to many factors, including discrimination, bullying, oppression, and a lack of education. Often, health-care providers are not fully trained on the different issues, which means they may be unsure of the right questions to ask or the right tests to perform.

“I feel like [education] is very important,” Imborek said. “It’s one of the really exciting things that have come out of the clinic. This will be a really wonderful opportunity for resident physicians as well as medical students.”

“The more sensitive, welcoming, educated, culturally competent the provider is, [the better],” Palermo said. “It may be the first time ever that they’ve had someone really listen and care. It’s huge.”

The clinic began operation Tuesday, and it will open its doors every Tuesday from 5-7:20 p.m.

Another unique feature of the clinic will come with “phase two,” when Imborek arrives in January. Currently, the clinic treats only adults, and officials want to include pediatrics and obstetrics.

The care for children will hopefully include endocrinologists trained in treating gender-variant children.

“There are so few places in the country that offer services to pediatric patients that are transgender or considering transition,” said Rachel Williams, a UI associate professor of gender studies. “I think parents will come from all over the country to the clinic for their children.”

But they are not only providing health care. As health-care providers move toward an electronic-records system, Nisly is working to change the system slightly, allowing more than just the two choices of male and female. She hopes to make the system more gender inclusive, and she has worked closely with local LGBTQ members to figure out what matters most.

The process of changing the system has begun, and if it continues, officials hope it becomes a national change.

“It has a lot of amplifying potential,” Nisly said. “Like a drop of water, but there is a lot of far reach.”


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