First year of LGBTQ Clinic shows success
The first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Clinic in the state has proven to be an emerging success throughout its first year of business at the Iowa River Landing. “We have five to seven open spots, and our spots are generally completely full for every clinic session,” said Nicole Nisly, a University of Iowa clinical professor of internal medicine. “When the clinic started, we had patients on the waiting list waiting to be seen.”
The clinic opened on Oct. 9, 2012, and the two primary doctors are Nisly and UI Clinical Assistant Professor Katherine Imborek. The intent of the clinic is to create a primary-care home for LGBTQ patients rather than just a specialty clinic. On a broader scale, the Iowa River Landing clinic opened to alleviate overcrowding issues at the main University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The $73 million clinic opened on Oct. 5, 2012, and patients were admitted three days later.
In 2012, the Iowa River Landing Clinic, which the LGBTQ Clinic is housed under, saw 7,000 patients in November 2012. Officials anticipate in future years they will see 300,000 patients annually.
Nisly said many people who identify as LGBTQ do not seek medical care because of bad experiences in the health-care system, but since the clinic opened, they have seen an overwhelming response and a great number of patients.
Two-thirds of the patients at the clinic are transgender and gender non-conforming, members of the community least likely to seek medical care. “Many people who identify as LGBTQ do not seek medical care because they feel uncomfortable with their physicians or they see that their physicians are not well-prepared to provide care for them,” Nisly said.
Because of this discomfort, many LGBTQ patients do not seek care unless they have an emergency. “Our focus was to serve a population that has been underserved,” Nisly said. “Research suggests that people that do have a primary-care home have better health outcomes or are healthier.”
UI spokesman Tom Moore said there was a clear demand for this type of service prior to the clinic opening last year. “Anything that helps or makes patients feel more comfortable will clearly be a benefit,” he said. “Everyone’s health is enhanced when they receive regular medical care rather than waiting for an emergency to arise.”
Imborek said word of mouth as well as their efforts to reach out to the community has largely contributed to the increasing number of patients coming to the clinic. “Dr. Nisly and I have done our part to make sure we’re up to date on things that folks who are in this community need to have done for their health,” she said. “Our mission is to provide that safe place. It’s a place where patients, regardless of how they identify, they can come and be cared for in a very non-judgmental way.”
All staff members at the clinic including nurses, schedulers and doctors, have been trained specifically to treat the LGBTQ community. Nisly said the transgender and gender non-conforming community helped guide the development stages of the clinic to ensure the clinic would become a welcoming environment for patients. Additionally, her and Imborek have also been engaged in other efforts to benefit overall health care for LGBTQ patients.
“We do a lot of education to health-care providers and our goal is to help prepare them to provide better care to LGBTQ patients,” she said. “We’re also engaged in doing research that will provide better information for patient care in the future.”
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