The LGBTQ community has a new PROUD Center for health in Toms River

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LGBT Health rainbow cross with doctors

The newest PROUD Center will be a judgement free zone for Ocean County

Members of the LGBTQ community are often more reluctant than the general population to seek routine medical care. “The start of all good healthcare is having good primary care,” says Angela M. Adelizzi, DO, FACOI, Associate Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency at Community Medical Center (CMC).

“Without it, people are missing out on basics such as receiving recommended screenings and addressing issues such as depression and anxiety. But disparities have developed in the LGBTQIA community.”

A new program called the PROUD Center at CMC in Toms River aims to address these disparities. The center provides clinic hours specifically focused on LGBTQ care. The clinic also partners with other RWJBarnabas Health facilities to provide services that require specialist involvement, such as gender-affirming care.

Similar programs exist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and RWJUH Somerset. “Opening a PROUD clinic in Toms River provides an avenue for much-needed care in Ocean County,” says Adam Kaplan, MD, FACP, an internal medicine physician and a faculty physician for the Internal Medicine Residency program.

“I’ve had many inquiries from patients, family members and loved ones — some from as far away as Philadelphia — asking if there are centers or clinics with a specialty focus on the LGBTQIA community closer to the Jersey Shore. We’re addressing an important need for patients.”

PROVIDING A SAFE PLACE

Reluctance to get care often hinges on perceived acceptance. “Many patients in the LGBTQIA community have not had a positive experience with physicians and healthcare workers,” Dr. Adelizzi says. “They often hesitate to go to the doctor because they are sometimes judged or misunderstood.”

Providing care in a nonjudgmental way has long been a priority at CMC. “But we have to acknowledge there are gaps in care, commit to resolving them, and work to make improvements happen,” Adelizzi says.

“A big part of access to quality healthcare for any minority community is offering a place where patients feel safe and can be open about themselves so they can establish relationships with providers,” Dr. Kaplan says. “A clinic like the PROUD Center is a judgment-free zone where patients can feel respected and seen.”

Medical residents in CMC’s Internal Medicine program will help provide services, gaining experience that can broadly facilitate better care. “Learning more about how to empathize, be open and create a safe space can be extrapolated to any population,” Kaplan says.

“Our overall goal is to provide excellent care,” Adelizzi says. “Our hope is to create an environment and space where we can provide all-inclusive care for the LGBTQIA community and continue to improve the lives of patients.”