By Steve Blanchard
Visitors to Moffitt Cancer Center may see an additional splash of color when they pull into the main entrance. To celebrate LGBT Pride month, Moffitt is flying the Pride flag.
But Moffitt’s commitment to the community extends far beyond just the month of June.
Moffitt’s ongoing mission is to prevent and cure cancer, and it recognizes that patients come in all forms and from all backgrounds. Team members are expected to treat all patients with dignity and respect, regardless of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.
“Creating a comfortable environment helps cancer experts provide better care,” says Cathy Grant, senior director of Moffitt Diversity. “Knowing more about the patient helps doctors develop the appropriate plan of treatment.”
Grant said that the LGBTQ+ community faces significant health disparities, including disproportionate rates of tobacco, alcohol and drug usage, and increased rates of depression and anxiety. Availability of better data will allow health care providers to better serve the individual needs of LGBTQ+ clients.
“Collecting gender identity and sexual orientation data is becoming routine for hospitals nationally,” explained Grant. “When it comes to collecting this data, research suggests that offering an opportunity for the patient to self-disclose sexual orientation and gender identity information sensitively is ideal. That means a patient should be presented with the questions about gender identity or sexual orientation as early as possible in the continuum of care.”
One Moffitt doctor will be recognized for his ongoing commitment to the care of the LGBTQ+ community. Dr. Julian Sanchez will receive the National Diversity Council’s 2019 Florida LGBT Leadership Award at its Diversity Summit in Orlando on June 7. Sanchez is a gastrointestinal surgeon at Moffitt and associate professor of surgery at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.
“Dr. Sanchez’s continuing outreach to the LGBTQ+ community exemplifies the inclusive principles at Moffitt’s core,” said Dr. Desirée Chachula, Moffitt’s Diversity and Inclusion manager. “His clinic is dedicated to the unique needs of LGBTQ+ patients with cancer. Sanchez has developed partnerships with community health clinics, primary care providers and local health departments to extend the reach of the anal dysplasia clinic, becoming a local screening resource among gay men.”
Moffitt has also taken steps to ensure that patients who identify as transgender receive the care and respect they deserve from their caregivers and medical professionals.
“I think the transgender community has historically faced a lot of discrimination in the healthcare setting and in other settings throughout the community,” Grant said. “This mistrust creates fear and a lack of confidence that they would not be treated well when they do present to receive medical care. Lack of trust is a major barrier to care – the fear that they won’t be treated well upon arrival or they just won’t have a good experience is a foremost worry.
“Past unfavorable healthcare experiences have resulted in concerns that providers may be biased or lack knowledge about their health-related concerns. As a cancer center, we are working to ensure transgender patients are comfortable and can focus on their treatment in an environment that is sensitive to their needs.”
In addition to flying the Pride Flag, Moffitt will participate in the annual St. Pete Pride parade on June 22.