MetroHealth Pride Network Celebrates 15 Years
Fifteen years ago, The MetroHealth System launched a clinic designed to offer the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community a safe, affirming place to receive care. What started as a single clinic on Cleveland’s near West Side has since grown to a full network of providers throughout Northeast Ohio committed to the same goal: to treat LGBTQI+ individuals with the humanity they deserve.
"They have a place to go where they're going to be accepted," says Douglas Van Auken, MD, one of the founders of the Pride Network, the first of its kind in Northeast Ohio and among the first in the country.
"They're not going to be confronted with people that use their wrong name or treat them more like a disease than a person,” Van Auken says. “Universally, they will hear something like, 'I'm so glad you're here, and your life is important.'”
Today, the MetroHealth Pride Network includes nine primary care providers at various MetroHealth locations throughout Greater Cleveland and offers telemedicine services for individuals farther away. Since 2019, the Pride Network has also hosted a clinic at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland in the Gordon Square neighborhood.
These providers offer general primary care for all ages. Care includes chronic disease management, family planning and pregnancy care, affirming care for LGBTQ+ kids and the children of LGBTQI+ parents, hormone therapy, testing for sexual transmitted infections, HIV prevention and care, immunizations and other services.
“With our network, the majority of our providers are part of the LGBT community and understand the issues so many of these individuals face,” says Mark McLoney, MD, Medical Director, MetroHealth Pride Network. “People should expect their medical providers to listen to them, make them feel comfortable and encourage them to be their genuine selves – and I’m confident that’s what our team here does.”
Historically, stigma and discrimination have deterred LGBTQI+ individuals from seeking medical care – something MetroHealth’s providers are adamant about addressing. A 2020 national survey, for example, reported that 15% of LGBTQ Americans reported postponing or avoiding medical treatment due to discrimination, including nearly 3 in 10 transgender individuals.
“It really is a privilege to be invited into their lives, and I take that responsibility very seriously in terms of my obligations to them as their provider,” says Meghan Fibbi, DO, one of the Pride Network’s Family Medicine physicians.
Even beyond the Pride Network, MetroHealth is committed to ensuring questions and concerns rooted in historical disparities – like those faced by the LGBTQI+ community – are met by its caregivers with compassion, patience and flexibility.
The Pride Network works closely with specialties across the system, including behavioral health, plastic surgery, gynecology and speech therapy, to ensure individuals receive the gender-affirming care they deserve. In fact, this fall, MetroHealth will begin to offer vaginoplasty and phalloplasty surgeries.
“As a doctor, one of the most important things to do is listen and bear witness to our patients’ lived experiences,” says Vikas Gampa, MD, one of the Pride Network’s newest primary care physicians. “We are here to provide non-judgmental and inclusive care.”
To learn more about The MetroHealth Pride Network, visit metrohealth.org/pride.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through four hospitals, four emergency departments, and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites. Each day, our 8,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable health care–through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services–that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit metrohealth.org.