LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 2, 2020) — The University of Kentucky College of Medicine celebrated the LGBTQ* community this fall during its first annual Pride Week, made possible through a collaboration among the college’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, its newly established LGBTQ* Advisory Committee, and the UK medPRIDE student organization.
The UK College of Medicine hosted four days of events that gathered feedback, shared important local resources, and displayed the college’s commitment to continued progress toward inclusivity.
“The events throughout the week allowed the UK College of Medicine LGBTQ* community to be seen, heard, and encouraged interactions with other members of the community as well as allies,” said Rachel Cox, who serves as student co-chair of the college’s LGBTQ* Advisory Committee. “By encouraging LGBTQ* support and visibility, we hope that Pride Week helped LGBTQ* individuals within the college feel that they can be their genuine selves at work and school and that it helped facilitate conversations among peers and coworkers about how they can be good allies.”
The UK College of Medicine kicked off Pride Week with Pride Outside. During the event faculty, staff, and learners met safely and physically distanced in the College of Medicine Learning Center lawn area. The evening featured informative poster sessions, networking opportunities with local nonprofits, and a keynote presented by faculty members Dr. Keisa Fallin-Bennett and LGBTQ* Advisory Committee faculty co-chair Dr. Niki Gupta. Fallin-Bennett and Gupta discussed how they interact with LGBTQ* patients and support the LGBTQ* community through their practice.
The UK College of Medicine also launched a SAFE Pledge, allowing members of the college to promise to serve as effective, supportive allies for the college’s LGBTQ* community. Those who signed the pledge are able to show their support with a digital badge provided by the college to place in their email signatures, as well as a pin to attach to their physical name badges.
In a joint effort with UK HealthCare and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the college hosted a virtual panel discussion, titled “Out in the School/Workplace,” to discuss being out in a work or school environment. Panelists included Brandie Cobb, practice manager in women’s health at UK HealthCare; Shawn Crouch; Kaleb Grey, patient access associate at UK HealthCare; Kim Harris, senior director of philanthropy at the College of Medicine; Terry Lennie, Ph.D., senior associate dean and professor in the College of Nursing; and a first-year medical student.
The UK College of Medicine ended Pride Week with Social Media Day, taking over the college’s Facebook account with stories, videos, and resources for and about the LGBTQ* community. The posts reached thousands of Facebook users and shared important information relating to effective allyship, patient care, and more.
Overall, more than 500 members of the College of Medicine participated throughout the week.
“We’re thrilled with the outcome of the inaugural UK College of Medicine Pride Week,” Emily Neiport, staff co-chair of the LGBTQ* Advisory Committee, said. “As a member of the LGBTQ* community, my biggest takeaway from Pride Week is that I’m not alone. Whether a person is a member of the LGBTQ* community or not, it isn’t all we are. We’re your friends, co-workers, supervisors, direct reports, mentors, mentees, or the person you greet near the elevator every morning as you start your day. Sometimes, we’re your neighbors, parents, children, and siblings.”
According to the UK College of Medicine Diversity Engagement Survey, conducted in the fall of 2019, 11 percent of respondents in the college self-identified as belonging to the LGBTQ* community. Pride Week marked an important step toward ensuring all members of the UK College of Medicine feel welcomed and celebrated, and the college has continued to implement strategies for a more inclusive environment for its LGBTQ* learners, employees, patients, and allies.
As president of UK medPRIDE, second-year medical student Logan Eslinger works with other learners to support the LGBTQ* community through the promotion of resources, event planning, and community building. He said Pride Week made it easy for more students to become involved with the cause.
“When all students are involved, then more people are willing to open up and express themselves, which leads to a more comfortable and inclusive learning environment,” Eslinger said, also acknowledging that the LGBTQ* Advisory Committee, which spearheaded the event, has potential to be a driving force of change for the college.
Cox, who also serves on the UK medPRIDE leadership team, added that events like Pride Week could encourage a “lasting culture of LGBTQ* support and visibility” within the college.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.