The 29th Annual Conference of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA)
Sept 21 – 25, 2011
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
I was one of 375 healthcare professionals from across the United States and Canada who converged in Atlanta for the 29th annual GLMA conference, Sept 21 – 25, at the W Hotel Midtown.
The conference aims at improving healthcare for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. This is the largest such gathering of medical professionals in the world. With over 90 workshops and plenary sessions, this was one of GLMA’s largest Annual Conferences. Topics covered a broad spectrum of LGBT health issues. Attendees were updated on most recent research and provided with tools to promote healthcare equality.
Besides the great educational value, the conference becomes an efficient networking tool. You strengthen old connections and create new ones. During a networking lunch, my friends Dr. Rami Baz, Dr. Brian Fitzsimmons and his partner Dr. Michael Farmer, and I shared the table with Dr. Matt Heinz, member of the House of Representatives in Arizona, and Dr. Desirey Bailey, president-elect for GLMA.
At the table, Dr. Heinz discussed his Lebanese heritage (his maternal grandfather comes from Dhour Shweir) and his experience as an openly gay politician in relatively conservative Arizona. On stage, he emphasized on the vital role physicians can play in policy making. He called upon other healthcare professionals to become politically active. Projecting from his personal experience, he believes in our potential as physicians to be essential catalysts for change. His speech was empowering.
The plenary session title “Encountering Ourselves and the Other: a Multi-faith Approach to Relational Centred Care” was intriguing. Judaism was represented by Rabbi Joshua Lesser, NHL (the organizer), Christianity by Reverend Laurie Robbins, MDiv, MA, and Buddhism by Pamela Ayo Yetunde. While the session was thought provoking and inspirational, it was disappointing to see Islam alienated. With the alarming growth of Islamophobia and further marginalization of this religious minority, it was essential to include Islam in the panel and throw a spotlight on the LGBT-affirming face of the Muslim faith.
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin spoke about the National Prevention Strategy and shared personal stories one of which highlighted her realization that cultural competency is imperative for healthcare providers. We also heard from Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the 15th Surgeon General under President Bill Clinton. I was actively tweeting their speeches that reflected the importance of reaching out to straight allies to better advance the cause.
This year’s achievement award winners included United States Representative John Lewis, Institute of Medicine (IOM), World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative, Dr. C. Harris, and Harvard Medical School Kinsey Two-Sixers LGBT group.
The five-day meeting concluded with a fantastic Gala hosted by “fumerist” Kate Clinton at the famous Egyptian Ballroom of Atlanta’s “Fabulous Fox”. The historic Fox Theatre dazzled the crowd with its impressive mosque-like structure, minarets, onion domes, and an interior décor even more lavish than its façade.
This multidisciplinary meeting is worth your time. If you are a physician or healthcare professional consider attending next year’s meeting in San Francisco, Sept. 2012.