Logo for University of Iowa Health Care This logo represents the University of Iowa Health Care

New LGBTQ+ affinity group kicks off activities with Iowa City Pride

Date: Thursday, June 16, 2022

Group aims to help employees find mentorship, opportunities, resources, and community

Attendees of Iowa City Pride this year may see a few new faces at the University of Iowa Health Care booth: members of the UI Health Care LGBTQ+ Group. Launched in January 2022, the new group is following in the footsteps of the Health Care Black Faculty Council and the Latinx/Hispanic Faculty Council to create a supportive community for UI Health Care employees with shared experiences.

“We have a long history at Iowa being the first for a number of things around diversity,” says co-president Heath Davis, MS, ITIL, assistant director for biomedical informatics in the Institute for Clinical Translational Science. “We wanted to continue to move that forward.”

pride banner in front of campus building

Building a welcoming community

The group provides a space for LGBTQ+ employees of UI Health Care to network both professionally and socially by using the LGBTQ+ OutList, which they now maintain. Employees listed on the OutList receive email announcements about upcoming meetings and events geared toward LGBTQ+ faculty and staff. 

James Kinney, DNP, ARNP, the group’s social chair, says the group is increasing visibility for the LGBTQ+ community on campus so that members of the LGBTQ+ community who are considering coming to the University of Iowa to work or study will know they won’t be alone. 

There’s a lot of different ways that this workplace is welcoming to LGBTQ+ people,” says Kinney. “It’s so important for people to see that there are people like them that work here that are happy, safe, and fulfilled.” 

Professional development is another of the group’s priorities. They have been working with Jessica Brierton, LMSW, to transition administration of the University’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) training to the LGBTQ+ Group. This will increase the number of trainers available to provide SOGI training so that the group can educate more UI Health Care employees on topics like gender-affirming care and language, LGBTQ+ health care considerations, and related university policies. 

“We wanted to transition [the training] to a group of people who are equally passionate about LGBTQ+ health education and initiatives,” says Brierton. 

First and foremost, though, the group wants to engage with members to determine what will serve them best. 

“We’re just trying to focus on getting up and going,” says co-president William Zeitler, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor of internal medicine. “We’re having our first big event coming up with the pride festival and becoming a spot for our LGBTQ+ employees to get together and make the group what they want it to be.” 

Fostering connections

In the year ahead, the group plans to develop mentorship opportunities for members of the LGBTQ+ community with UI Health Care. 

“We have identified mentorship as a key element of our mission,” says Jun Xu, MD, MA, clinical assistant professor of surgery who is leading the development of the council’s mentorship program. “As such, we have an opportunity to mold it according to the needs of our members and the institution.”  

The group will soon conduct surveys to gauge members’ interests and needs for mentorship. Once needs have been identified, Xu says the OutList will include a new option to mark oneself as interested in mentorship and search for others who have done the same. 

Eventually, they plan to collaborate with related student organizations, other health science colleges, and the Latinx and Black faculty councils to extend mentorships to the broader community of health professionals with UI Health Care.

‘There’s so much to celebrate’

The LGBTQ+ group’s first goal—to lead UI Health Care’s participation in Iowa City Pride—will be realized this weekend. 

“There’s so much to celebrate that day, and this month,” says Kinney. 

The LGBTQ+ Group expects more than 100 volunteers from across UI Health Care to participate in the parade. They also coordinated the LGBTQ Clinic’s tent at the festival, which will share resources about gender-affirming care and LGBTQ-focused counseling services with the community.

Aside from stopping by the booth this Saturday, interested UI Health Care employees are encouraged to join the OutList if they would like to participate in the LGBTQ+ Group. The executive board emphasizes that participation does not require members to publish their information on the OutList; individuals who would like to join the group without doing so can get in contact with one of the members of the executive board to be added to the mailing list privately. 

Meetings are held monthly over the noon hour. Currently meetings and social activities are held via Zoom, but Kinney hopes to be able to start in-person activities again soon.