Working to help LGBTQ community to rise up for healthcare

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Dr. Lori Tarke
Dr. Lori Tarke owner of LDT consulting agency and CEO of Rise Up LGBT

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Lori Tarke, the owner of LDT consulting Agency, LLC, as well as the President and CEO of Rise Up LGBT, a healthcare advocacy and education nonprofit. She is also an Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Sites for a Physician Assistant Program at Saint Elizabeth University in Morristown. Dr. Tarke continues to be a nationally recognized platform speaker whose expertise falls under the umbrella of diversity and inclusion, leadership, learning and development, and human resources.

What is the mission of Rise Up LGBT?

Dr. Lori Tarke: Rise Up LGBT, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to increase visibility, educate our communities, and improve healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.

How did you get this wonderful idea started?

LT: Rise Up LGBT was founded in memory of a schoolteacher who identified as LGBTQ and whose life was cut short due to addiction. Data suggests that substance use disorder in the LGBTQ+ community is significantly higher, which might be due to harassment, social pressures, and more. When someone goes to a hospital for help, they are often met with health professionals who might be biased against individuals with addictions, where the intersectionality of sexuality or gender plays an additional role. This might lead to subpar treatment. All patients deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Tell me more about how you help members of the community.

LT: Our nonprofit was founded due to the inequities and stigma that LGBTQ people face in healthcare on a daily basis. We are our own culture with unique needs across our life stages. Knowledge about the community is often piecemeal. For example, second-parent adoption is a stressful experience that many heterosexual couples do not have to face. This second-parent adoption costs money, raises stress, and impacts the social determinants of health, which might explain why certain health disparities exist in our communities. By understanding the full picture, it might allow other groups to step into our shoes and empathize, create positive actions to support the community, and give these patients a greater sense of belonging and feeling “seen.”

How might you serve the healthcare community specifically?

LT: We are looking to serve health professionals in clinical and non-clinical practice through education with events like our upcoming LGBTQ+ Healthcare Conference set to take place on Sept. 16, 2023, at Saint Elizabeth University in Morristown. We seek to serve students from the LGBTQ+ community and our allies who want to enter health professions by providing them with free pre-admission college coaching with mentors from the community in the health professions. We are also recognizing the movers and shakers of the tri-state area who are agents of positive change.

In your opinion what are the greatest health and healthcare needs and concerns for the LGBTQ community in New Jersey?

LT: We must begin with the issue of visibility. It’s difficult to know how many of us are directly or indirectly involved in healthcare because so many still feel they need to hide their sexuality and gender identity while at work. Studies of the black community, for instance, suggest that when a black medical provider is available to work with them, change occurs with improvement in everything from an increase in life expectancy to a decrease in infant mortality and disparities minimized.

It is not a leap to see that the LGBTQ+ community would have similar results. Therefore, we need medical professionals to come out and become role models who will create a pipeline of LGBTQ+ youth who aspire to go into the health professions. We need health professionals to get involved in the community resource groups like Rise Up, and to be preceptors. We. Need. You. The community’s greatest needs are knowledgeable healthcare organizations and providers, who exemplify a commitment to the LGBTQ community in all layers of their organizations throughout the year. In other words, support should not be performative but rather woven into every layer of the organization. This includes policies, physical building space, language, training, and more. In addition, a focus on mental health and addictions is a must. Also critically important are sexual and reproductive health, gender-affirming health, HIV/AIDS testing and care, and older LGBTQ people. There is just so much, Steven, but visibility is the key to all these considerations.

What information, resources, and advice can we relay to healthcare providers?

LT: Please come to our conference. Please join our mission and be part of our community resource group by visiting RiseUpLGBT.com.

What can those seeking healthcare gain through your website and services?

LT: Readers seeking healthcare can always reach out to us for guidance and support. For those who are aspiring healthcare professionals, we can be a guide that provides connection, education, and inspiration.

What types of changes to legislation, regulation, or education have you effected already, and what changes are you seeking?

LT: People should feel safe when they are most vulnerable. The changes I want to see in education begin as early as K-5. All children need earlier exposure to healthcare professions. In middle school, they need to start understanding the competitive nature and rigor of the academics and to be immersed more in the fields. By high school and college, we need to build the foundation and bring light to the crisis in the health professions of underrepresentation in certain communities. And then we need to embed diversity and inclusion across all curricula in the form of healthcare heroes, inclusive textbooks (e.g., medical textbooks historically feature fair-skinned people), diverse patient experiences, etc. Our focus is really on the realm of education.

We are bringing visibility to the lack of visibility. We are working to connect the dots on real societal examples and how they impact healthcare. We are airing out the bias and stigma. We are gathering a group of providers that inspires the next generation of LGBTQ healthcare professionals. We are educating the long-term care and assisted living world on elder issues. We are making ourselves visible and accessible in order to provide greater accessibility for future generations. We invite you to join us and Rise Up LGBT.

RiseUpLGBT.com