Voices of Penn Medicine Pride

June 29, 2023

| by
Jonathan B. Waller

Dubbed the “Love, Light, and Liberty” March, the demonstration was open to the entire community, and called for renewed commitment to fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights and equal protection under the law.

Pride parades held each June offer the LGBTQ+ community an opportunity to celebrate hard-won battles over health care access, military service, housing and employment protection, marriage equality, adoption, and so much more—while also acknowledging that members of the LGBTQ+ community across the country are still facing considerable threats to their rights and well-being. 

At this year’s 2023 Philadelphia LGBTQ+ Pride march, staff from across the University of Pennsylvania Health System, along with their friends, families, and neighbors—nearly 30 people in all—participated to celebrate the Philadelphia LGBTQ+ community and reaffirm Penn Medicine’s commitment to health equity, representation, and support for queer individuals who are employed by or receive care across the Health System.

Some of these marchers shared their insights on why representation and support matter to LGBTQ+ staff across the Health System and how everyone can work together to create an inclusive and welcoming healing environment for patients.

Why is it important for Penn Medicine to support the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month?

Jenna Mechalas, kneeling, far left, with a group of Penn Medicine employees at the Philadelphia Pride March
Jenna Mechalas (kneeling, far left)

“LGBTQ+ people have to navigate this world 365 days out of the year. So, while it’s great that Penn shows visible support during Pride month, we need to acknowledge that lived experience every day. We need to push for safety and access to care for all of our patients. And we need to make sure hospital practices and policies ensure a safe environment for staff. 

Penn is a leading health care provider in the City of Philadelphia, so a lot of other entities look to us lead the way. Right now, when the LGBTQ+ community is experiencing an increase in discrimination and loss of health care access, it’s important for Penn to stand by staff and our patients to ensure that we all have the ability to thrive.”

Jenna Mechalas, MSN, RN, nurse, Heart and Vascular Care, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; chair, Penn Presbyterian’s PRIDE (Presbyterian’s Rally for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equality) Committee; lead organizer for Penn Medicine’s participation in the 2023 Philadelphia LGBTQ+ Pride March

What is the most import thing about having the ability to live authentically at work as a member of a marginalized community?

Curtis Dent
Curtis Dent 

“For me, it’s about being able to come into work and not fear judgement for who I am or how I live my life. Philadelphia is very diverse, with people from all different backgrounds, and it’s important that Penn builds an environment of acknowledging and celebrating those differences. Being not only a Black man but a gay Black man, there are plenty of challenges I’ve had to navigate. That’s why it’s so important that I’m able to come to work and have that acknowledgement and support.”

Curtis Dent, bed manager, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center

How does the availability of gender-affirming care and queer representation across the health care environment impact Penn Medicine’s overall quality of care?

Evelyn Heldon
Evelyn Heldon

“Managing your health can be challenging enough, and is often a vulnerable experience. But, to try accessing care in a setting where you don’t feel like you belong or where you feel judgement can add so much extra difficulty and pain to the experience. Inclusivity matters. Giving people a sense of belonging matters. And it matters that Penn Medicine supports all patients, regardless of who they love or how they present themselves in this world.”

Evelyn Heldon, supervisor of clerical services, Renal, Electrolyte, and Hypertension Division, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

What should Penn Medicine clinicians and staff keep in mind at the close of LGBTQ+ Pride Month to sustain the commitment to equality and inclusion year-round?

Donald Duong
Donald Duong

“We [LGBTQ+ people] exist in all aspects of life and are a part of what makes Penn Medicine the kind of institution that it is. We need to show that representation not only across Penn, but also within the broader community. Health care is a human right, and no one should feel fear when trying to access care. I’m here to show that I support this community while at Penn.”

Donald Duong, BSN, RN, nurse case manager, Pennsylvania Hospital

More LGBTQ+ Penn Medicine Employee Perspectives From this Pride Month

Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride With Nurse Andrew Vitola

HUP nurse Andrew Vitola, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, shares what it means to be his authentic self at work.

What PPMC’s PRIDE Committee Really Represents

Nurse Jenna Mechalas, MSN, RN, CCHP-RN, chair of the PPMC PRIDE Committee, shares in her own words how the group formed, what being part of it means to her, and why LGBTQ+ representation is important at work and beyond.

Feeling Seen and Heard

An advocate for LGBTQ+ and non-English speaking patients, nurse Mick Masaba emphasizes the importance of his patients feeling seen and heard during their stay at the hospital.

More Information About LGBTQ+ Health Care at Penn Medicine 

A neon green sign painted with the phrase 'Dare to be Yourself."
The Philadelphia LGBTQ+ Pride Celebration on June 4, 2023 included a community demonstration and march, inspired by grassroots activism that fueled the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement in the 1960s and 70s.

Through its LGBTQ+ Health Program, Penn Medicine works to advance access to gender-affirming care, queer representation at the bedside, and the availability of clinicians highly trained in health concerns specific to LGBTQ+ patients. With resources like the LGBTQ+ Patient Navigation Program, patients can get assistance in finding appropriate providers, updating medical records to match their gender identity and preferred pronouns, and navigating any other issues that may arise when seeking care within the Penn health system.

With its LGBTQ+ Health Treatment Teams portal, the program also enables patients to identify care providers in more than 25 medical specialties who have additional training in medical considerations specific to LGBTQ+ individuals. Going further, the program also maintains a growing list of providers and practices at Penn that offer LGBTQ-affirming clinical services ranging from primary care to endocrinology, mental health and substance use, family planning, surgical care and more.

To learn more about the Penn Medicine LQBTQ+ Health Program, click here, or contact them at [email protected]


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