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The Center’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) initiative began in March 2014 with the addition of John Cullen, PhD, Research Associate Professor of Clinical and Translational Research, who now works two days per week as the Assistant Director of the Center. John, who received a Graduate Certificate in LGBT Health Policy and Practice from the George Washington University in 2014, also serves as the point-person for LGBTQ-related patient issues at the University of Rochester Medical Center. In addition, over 1,000 UR Medicine employees have received the ‘LGBTQ Patients: Addressing Disparities and Health Care Needs’ training that John has been facilitating since August 2015.

Even within the LGBT community, some individuals remain marginalized and face greater adversity than many of their fellow community members. These individuals include the transgender community that has gone from being on the front lines during the fight for LGBT rights in the Stonewall era, to the sidelines where they are still waiting for equality. John has been working with both Human Resources and University Health Service to review health benefits plans for employees and students, and remove the exclusions that prohibit any transgender employee or student receiving treatment that is deemed a medical necessity by the American Medical Association. As a result of these discussions, students have been offered gender transition-related coverage since the 2014-2015 academic year, and on January 1st, 2015, the University added transgender health care benefits for employees and their families enrolled in University health care plans.

The University of Rochester has strong ties to the LGBT community as the birthplace of both the ‘Gay Liberation Front’, which eventually became the Gay Alliance of The Genesee Valley, and the ‘Empty Closet’, the oldest LGBT newspaper in the country. This important role that the University played in the development of an LGBT community in the Rochester area has recently been highlighted in the documentary movie ‘Shoulders to Stand On’ that celebrates the many stories and achievements of Rochester’s LGBT community. Click here for screening details.