Jefferson Health announces new primary care program for older LGBTQ+ adults

Jefferson Health has announced the launch of a recent program focused on primary care for Philadelphia’s aging LGBTQ+ community. 

Pride at the Jefferson Center for Healthy Aging is the first of its kind, the provider said, and combines clinical care and research efforts to create a primary care clinic for older LGBTQ+ adults. It offers gender-affirming care, HIV treatment and advanced care planning. The program launched two months ago.

“Inclusivity is about feeling welcomed, valued and respected, no matter where you’re from or who you are. Putting people first is a core value at Jefferson Health, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer these critical services to the LGBTQIA+ community,” Baligh Yehia, M.D., president of Jefferson Health, said in a press release. 

Clinicians that are part of the program at the Center for Healthy Aging receive ongoing training from SAGECare, a training organization specializing in LGBTQ+ cultural competency for older adults. Faculty research at the center has helped develop transformational educational materials for medical trainees and is facilitating a toolkit to enable other clinics to replicate Jefferson’s Pride program.

Pride at the Jefferson Center for Healthy Aging was conceived years ago by Michael Danielewicz, M.D., director of the program, and his colleagues. A gay man himself, raised by lesbian parents, Danielewicz was thinking about how best to serve the traditionally ignored LGBTQ+ community.

Jefferson already had an established relationship with the Elder Initiative, an organization promoting services and resources for LGBT elders in Pennsylvania, but Danielewicz and his team wanted to expand those efforts. 

When Jefferson began cultural competency training of its clinicians, it realized that there was a lot of interest in serving queer individuals, but lacking clinical competencies on how to treat them. From there, the health system designed educational materials for staff. 

“We wanted this to be way more than we just hang up a plaque and say we are a friendly practice,” Danielewicz told Fierce Healthcare. The goal was to be explicitly affirming, and the clinic considered things like decor and marketing materials to ensure inclusive rhetoric across the board.

The clinic consists of four doctors and two nurse practitioners, plus pharmacists, medical assistants and a nurse. The clinic is also currently reviewing literature for gender-affirming care for older adults with its geriatric pharmacist.

Many of Danielewicz’s patients with and without HIV have faced a loss of their community and support system while being excluded from healthcare settings, which has led to a lasting distrust of the system. The goal of the program is to support these patients in a way they haven’t experienced and rebuild their trust in healthcare.

“The concerns with these programs is that we might miss some of the more vulnerable communities,” Danielewicz said. But thus far, the data Jefferson is seeing with the clinic appears to be representative of the community, he said. That reflects the effort that has been put into the thoughtful design of the program. 

In addition to the Pride clinical program, Jefferson has two other initiatives focused on the queer community: Einstein Pride Program and Haddonfield Primary Services & Specialty Care. These practices are located in Philadelphia and South Jersey.

“Our goal is really to show that this can be done, it can be integrated into an existing clinic,” Danielewicz said. “And our goal is to show that it can be done with excellence.”