Babs Siperstein PROUD Center awarded grant to improve LGBTQ health care

PROUD Family Health LGBT Center in Somerville. 2018 File photo
PROUD Family Health LGBT Center in Somerville. 2018 File photo

TD Bank awards RWJUH in Sommerville $150,000 to fund additional services for LGBTQ community 

TD Bank recently awarded a $150,000 grant to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset’s Babs Siperstein PROUD Center to improve access to medical care for members of the LGBTQ community. The Center currently has a focus on HIV prevention and mental health. The grant will also help provide funding to ensure more equitable access for transgender individuals of color who face significant barriers to medical care.

“Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset is committed to addressing health care disparities, particularly in the Black and brown and LGBTQ+ communities,” said Tony Cava, president and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset. “This grant will help enhance our efforts to ensure that these underserved populations get the quality medical care that they need and deserve. We are extremely grateful to TD Bank for their investment in improving the health of the most vulnerable in our community.”

Members of the LGBTQ community are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as heterosexuals and a greater percentage are uninsured. Health care studies show this has an impacting on their ability to get the medical care they need, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The study says 28 percent of transgender individuals of color have no insurance compared to eight percent of all U.S. adults.

This gap in care contributes to an increased rate of HIV in Black transgender patients compared to the overall transgender populations. Mental health issues are a major concern for the entire LGBTQ community. The HRC says that fewer LGBTQ adults of color get diagnosed and treated for mental health issues than the general LGBTQ population.

“The medical needs of an LGBTQ+ individual are unique and far too many members of the community face extraordinary barriers to access basic medical care,” Michael Carbone, Regional President for Metro Pennsylvania and New Jersey at TD Bank. “We know the support from TD will help the PROUD Center to improve access to care and ultimately improve the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ New Jerseyans.”

The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset’s Babs Siperstein PROUD Center was the first in New Jersey to offer specialized primary care services for the LGBTQ community. Its medical director, Sameh Abdellal, MD, is an infectious disease specialist. Abdellal has extensive experience in caring for patients with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The PROUD Center in Somerville recently expanded its HIV prevention services with the addition of a Preexposure Prophylactics (PrEP) Counselor who provides education on PrEP and postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) and HIV risk reduction counseling. A therapist from the hospital’s Behavioral Health Services also now offers mental health services for patients. In addition, the center’s patient navigator works closely with patients to address gaps in care and connect patients with hospital and community resources.

Funds from the TD Bank grant will help ensure transgender patients of color have access to HIV prevention and mental health services as well as health care services associated with the transitioning process, including hormone replacement therapy. The hospital said the  grant will also fund Webinars and workshops to educate hospital employees and community members about the unique health care needs of the LGBTQ community.

“The TD Ready Commitment, our corporate citizenship platform, is about making the changes necessary to create a more sustainable and inclusive tomorrow,” said Shelley Sylva, Head of U.S. Corporate Citizenship at TD Bank. “As part of that, we are committed to supporting organizations and initiatives focused on ensuring more equitable health outcomes for everyone—regardless of how someone identifies. We know the PROUD Center shares that commitment and we are thrilled to support the incredible work they do to improve health care access and outcomes for all.”

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset has been honored as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” by HRC. It earned statewide recognition in 2021 for its efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the Black and brown communities, receiving the NJBiz Healthcare Hero Award for Public Health and the New Jersey Hospital Association’s Healthy New Jersey Award. The hospital also received an “A” national social responsibility grade from the Lown Hospitals Index Awards.

The PROUD Center at RWJUH in Somerville is named in memory of the late transgender activist Babs Siperstein. It was opened in 2017 on the hospital’s campus. Appointments are available five days a week, including evening and telehealth appointments. To schedule an appointment, call 855-PROUD-FH. For more information, visit