Work/Life Connections
January 18, 2019

Del Ray Zimmerman, Program Manager of the Vanderbilt Program for LGBTQ Health, highlights affirming and informed health care services for sexual minorities.

Vanderbilt Program for LGBTQ Health

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Rosemary Cope:  Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I'm Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections.  My guest today is Del Ray Zimmerman, who is the Program Manager of the LGBTQ Health Program at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  He earned his Bachelor of Science in Communication from University of Tennessee and has over 20 years of experience in nonprofit management.  Although social acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the United States has been improving, LGBT individuals continue to face stigma and discrimination.  These negative experiences, combined with a lack of access to culturally-affirming and informed healthcare, result in multiple health disparities for this population.  Del Ray, would you tell our listeners the purpose of the Vanderbilt Center?

Del Ray Zimmerman:  Sure, absolutely, and, and, first of all, thank you so much for having me here today, Rosemary.

Rosemary Cope:  Absolutely.

Del Ray Zimmerman:  Our program was actually started from a call from a medical student, who said that they weren't getting the kind of education that they needed to be able to take care of LGBT individuals.  So, we were founded, actually, in 2012, and my boss, Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, spent a, a number of years building curricular pieces, so now that we, now we are graduating providers who are much more competent in the area.  Since then, we have actually moved into patient care and I actually maintain a pretty robust referral program so that LGBT patients can call me, let me know what is going on with them, and I can refer them to a culturally-competent provider.  Additionally, we have actually expanded our clinical services.  We actually opened the Vanderbilt Clinic for Transgender Health, which has been really incredible, and of course, I can provide connectivity and referrals into that clinic as well.

Rosemary Cope:  As you all expand, there is something that hopefully meets the needs of anybody who comes here instead of people feeling disenfranchised when they go to see a healthcare provider.

Del Ray Zimmerman:  Exactly, and that, that, unfortunately, has been the case for far too long.  LGBT people are more likely to delay care because they have received bad care in the past and have been discriminated against in different healthcare settings.  So, we want to eliminate that for LGBT folks who seek our services and to provide a welcoming atmosphere.

Rosemary Cope:  Well, then, that leads me to my next question.  So, if I am a Vanderbilt employee who would like to address some personal gender and orientation issues related to my healthcare, what could I expect to learn from your program?  What kind of services might I receive from this program?

Del Ray Zimmerman:  I maintain our referral program and I actually do a lot of education.  Throughout the enterprise, I probably do a couple of trainings a week and helping our clinical, um, our clinical staff to be more welcoming and affirming, and to educate our providers more on what unique health disparities actually exist.  And in terms of clinical services, I can provide those referrals for HIV care to get patients connected with PREP services, and PREP is pre-exposure prophylaxis, and can help prevent the spread of HIV.  In addition, I mentioned our Clinic for Transgender Health, and certainly anyone who is transgender, I think, faces additional burden in finding competent resources, and so, we have a full-scale operation for transgender patients.  I think, no matter what someone needs, the kind of specialty care that you can find at Vanderbilt, we have connectivity in every single department to be able to assist patients.

Rosemary Cope:  You're like the agency that connects folks when they really don't know where to go.

Del Ray Zimmerman:  Exactly.  Exactly.  I really, I really do provide concierge-type services for patients who are looking for help.


Rosemary Cope:  And are you able to tell us about any other local resources that might be available for folks who come, um, here in Nashville?

Del Ray Zimmerman:  Absolutely.  You know, there are, are, several community organizations that can provide support.  Of course, you know, when, when, when we encounter families who are looking for medical intervention, you know, we also, we oftentimes refer back out to the community.  I think PFLAG is one of our community's greatest resources.  PFLAG has historically stood for parents and friends of lesbians and gays.  That name is not exactly inclusive, so they just, they actually just use the acronym now, but it, it, it essentially functions as a support group for folks who are supporting loved ones who are LGBT.  Particularly for young transgender members of our community, it's great so that parents actually have a place to go to receive support, and, you know, parents oftentimes feel very isolated.  

Rosemary Cope:  And of course, if I am a Vanderbilt staff member, ah, Medical Center or the University, then there's also support and places for me to interact with others through the KC Potter Center?  

Del Ray Zimmerman:  Absolutely, yes.  Our friends at the KC Potter Center are certainly wonderful.  They have a, just a wonderful, welcoming space and fantastic staff.  So, that's a, that certainly is a great center, and I did mention our brand new employee resource group, and we are looking forward to an exciting 2019.  

Rosemary Cope:  Well, thank you so much, Del Ray.  We really appreciate all of the information that you've been able to give to us.

Thank you all for listening.  If you have a story suggestion, please email it to us at health.wellness@vanderbilt.edu, or you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website at www.vumc.org/health-wellness.