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Jesiah K Proud Family Health – Jesiah's Story

"I felt right at home the minute I walked through the door,” says Jesiah, recalling a sense of relief when he saw the rainbow flag hanging above the front desk. “The whole staff—from the receptionists to the nurses and doctors—were so welcoming."

Proud Family Health Is The First Hospital-Affiliated Center In New Jersey To Offer Specialized Primary Care Services For The LGBTQIA Community.

Jesiah Kinsey’s gender transition has been a life-changing experience. It’s also been a long and complicated journey for the Franklin Park resident who began hormone therapy in 2016. Because there were no health centers nearby in New Jersey that catered to the needs of transgender patients, Jesiah traveled by subway to a New York City center that did.

He was excited when the PROUD Family Health Center opened one year later at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, just 15 minutes from his home. “I’m 30 years old and hadn’t had a primary care doctor since my pediatrician,” admits Jesiah. He made an appointment with Lalitha Hansch, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician and the medical director of PROUD Family Health.

Pronouns Matter

“I felt right at home the minute I walked through the door,” says Jesiah, recalling a sense of relief when he saw the rainbow flag hanging above the front desk. “The whole staff—from the receptionists to the nurses and doctors—were so welcoming.”

Jesiah bonded with Dr. Hansch and felt the same level of comfort and safety with her as he had with his former pediatrician. “Dr. Hansch is the right doctor to manage my care. She’s warm and attentive and cares for me as a regular person and not as a trans person. That’s everyone’s right: to be treated as the he or she that they are. Some doctors haven’t been educated and they don’t know how to approach patients like me.”

Whether the action is outright, such as a provider refusing treatment, or a subtler level of discomfort in a waiting room, health care disparities exist for LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual or allied) individuals. Existing protections such as the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits health care providers and insurance companies from engaging in discrimination, are often not enough. Jesiah, who is several years through his transition and can now “pass” as a male, remembers early days when he was often “misgendered,” or mistaken as a female in medical settings.

The Proud Difference

RWJUH Somerset, which has been honored as a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality by The Human Rights Campaign, is dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQIA patients and their families. In January 2017, PROUD Family Health opened within RWJUH Somerset’s Family Practice. Services include primary and preventive medical care for children and adults, hormone therapy and monitoring, HIV care, health education, counseling, support groups and referrals for specialty services such as endocrinology or surgery.

Convenient Care

The center’s location on the RWJUH Somerset campus gives patients easy access to hospital services such as emergency, radiology, cardiology, oncology, rehabilitation and an on-site Walgreens pharmacy. “Our center’s staff as well as our inpatient residents in family medicine have all been medically trained in how to safely manage care for the LGBT population. Staff throughout the hospital have also received sensitivity training,” says Dr. Hansch.

During Pride Month in June, New Jersey Commissioner of Health Shereef Elnahal toured PROUD Family Health and said, “I learned a lot from patients and staff about the importance of delivering unbiased, compassionate and clinically appropriate services to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. For far too long, LGBT health—especially the unique health-care needs of our transgender residents—has been an afterthought in the health care community.”

Tony Cava, president of RWJUH Somerset, has announced the center’s plans to expand with a dedicated office suite and additional services to meet patient needs. “We’re excited to grow our program,” he says, “and continue to lead the way in LGBTQIA health care in New Jersey.”