South Jersey LGBTQ healthcare access expands with Virtua Health

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Richard Levine, MD
Richard Levine, MD

Virtua Health recognizes the needs within the LGBTQ community

Shanin Gross, DO
Shanin Gross, DO

Virtua Health opened a new primary care practice that serves as a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community and their allies while offering a range of specialized health screenings and services. The Marlton, NJ, practice is called Virtua Pride Primary Care and began welcoming patients on June 27. The practice serves adults as well as children ages seven and up.

Specialty services available at Virtua Pride Primary Care include gender-affirming care; HIV testing, prevention, and management; sexual health; medication-assisted treatment for opioid and alcohol abuse; and behavioral health services. The practice also has dedicated schedulers who are trained to assist members of the LGBTQ community.

Two established Virtua physicians volunteered to lead the practice: Shanin Gross, DO, and Richard Levine, MD.

“I’m pleased that Virtua Health recognizes the need for the LGBTQ+ community to have a safe and affirming space for primary care, and personally, I’m extremely excited to be part of the team that launches this dedicated service,” said Dr. Gross in a press release.

“When primary care is at its best, there is a connection between the patient and provider, and a sense that you are a unique individual deserving of a curated plan of care,” said Dr. Levine. “That gold standard is what we strive for.”

Daniel Moise, Virtua’s director of communications and engagement, is pleased to see Virtua’s care branch into broader inclusivity too. “[Dr. Gross and Dr. Levine] have been with Virtua for a while,” said Moise. “But when they heard about this new practice, they really wanted to jump on board and be a part of it. [Virtua Pride Primary Care] really does feel like ‘for us, by us’ right now. I’m so excited for what that will mean, making sure people know they have a resource to talk about their health, to feel very comfortable in sharing who they are.”

Moise said that New Jersey LGBTQ health clinics are on the increase, while others around the country are not. “Virtua is building a safe space for patients to share their identities without judgment or concern for LGBTQ healthcare ignorance,” he said.

Approximately 19 transgender youth healthcare bans were introduced in nine different state legislatures at the beginning of 2022. Out of those nine states, Arizona, Arkansas and Tennessee have at least some kind of discriminatory law that limits transgender youth healthcare; Texas state executives have attempted to limit or restrict medical care for transgender youth, but state law does not ban this care; and Alabama state law makes it a felony crime to provide best-practice healthcare to transgender youth, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP).

“In New Jersey, there is still more work to do,” says Moise. “And it’s towards building comprehensive care networks for LGBTQ people. With a population of approximately 500,000 LGBTQ+ people and now eight inclusive healthcare clinics and counting, this work progresses best at the local level.”

The expansion of local LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare in New Jersey allows doctors to know the communities they serve and vice versa. “And healthcare, I personally believe, is really at its best when it’s local,” said Moise. Following this local model, Virtua also has a community group called OUT at Virtua. “OUT” stands for open, united, and transformative. It consists of LGBTQ colleagues and allies from across the healthcare system. The group meets to advance inclusivity, diversity, and equity in their healthcare practice, in addition to organizing a social and educational resource for staff.

There are a number of Virtua staffers who share Moise’s vision.

“Quality care is built on trust and being able to express yourself freely,” said Rebecca D. Lynch, RN, MHA, senior vice president for Virtua Health and president of Virtua Medical Group. “We want everyone in South Jersey to have a partner in primary care who will be by their side through all the ups and downs of life. That sense of support and understanding is something that, for generations, has not come easily to our LGBTQ+ family and friends. We hope to change that in a small but significant way with Virtua Pride Primary Care.”

Virtua Pride Primary Care is the health system’s 24th primary care location. To learn more about the practice, visit virtua.org/locations/pride-primary-care-marlton. For a complete list of primary care offices or to schedule an appointment, visit virtua.org or call 888-VIRTUA-3.

Lana Leonard (they/them) is a graduate from The College of New Jersey with a degree in journalism and professional writing. They work at the GLAAD Media institute and freelance for publications like LGBTQ Nation while working on their journalistic theory of change project: Late Nights with Lana, a talk show based out of 10PRL film studios in Long Branch, NJ. Lana's mission, in all their work, is to focus on people, their collective truths and how those truths form a community of knowledge towards change.