In recognition of Pride Month, the Office of Diversity and Community Partnerships at PCOM Georgia sponsored a panel discussion on June 17 entitled “Coming Out at Work.” The hour-long virtual discussion featured an alumnus, along with faculty and staff members at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and PCOM Georgia.
Fittingly, just two days before the discussion, the Supreme Court ruled that a civil rights law originally passed in 1965 also protects gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination.
The theme of authenticity permeated the discussion. Panelist Beth Levine, MA, MCP, the assistant director of the Organizational Development and Leadership program at PCOM Georgia, emphasized this point. “As a teacher, it’s important to both be a role model for others and to present my “whole self.”
Alumnus Monique Gary, DO ‘09 noted, “Your narrative has power. You should get to own it.” She said, “If you’re going to bring your ‘youness,’ you have to bring all of your ‘youness.’” Dr. Gary is a breast surgery oncologist at Grand View Health/Penn Cancer Network.
According to Doug Koch, EdD, “When you are out, you own it, and others don’t have power over you.” Koch is the academic development coordinator in the Biomedical Sciences program at PCOM. Panel moderator PJ Grier, MPA, MLIS, associate director and instructor, Library Operations and Management at PCOM, noted the importance of “being true to yourself.”
They each shared coming out experiences with family members, friends and work colleagues from the mid 1970’s to today. Levine said, “I’ve come out so many times.” She said the experience requires courage and is “different at different seasons of life.”
Panel members answered the question – “How can supervisors best support staff members who may be struggling to come out at work?”
From “fostering a better sense of connection” to using neutral language to assuring individuals that their supervisor “has their back” were some of the suggestions. “Open heart, open ears, open door,” said panelist Erica Rosalle, the public services coordinator for PCOM Georgia’s Library and Educational Informational Services, adding “having a team behind me gave me the scaffolding to be me.”
A question about coming out as a transgender person in the South rendered advice about being safe. “The question is poignant,” said Levine. “You have to be safe.” Grier echoed this sentiment saying, “Safety is paramount.” Koch advised, “Develop a community around you.”
With community in mind, on June 23, the Office of Diversity and Community Relations and the LGBTQIA Councils held a session called Creating Connections in the LGBTQ+ Community at PCOM primarily to celebrate successes and create support for the challenges of working from home.
Earlier in the month on June 8, PCOM Georgia’s LGBTQIA Council hosted its second annual Lavender Awards event virtually. Established last year, the Lavender Awards recognize individuals who have contributed to an inclusive campus community for LGBTQ+ students, faculty, staff and alumni.
This year, four individuals were recognized for contributing to the Council's success through either being an ally or amplifying LGBTQ+ voices in the community. They include: Drew Cates, PharmD, assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy; Anne Belocura, MS, MS/Biomed ’20; Leanne Henry-Miller, LPC, MFT, personal support counselor, Office of Student Affairs; and Anna Lisa Derenthal, LPC, NCC, licensed professional counselor with a specialty in trauma, PTSD, and LGBTQ+ support.
According to Aisha DeBerry, JD, director of the PCOM Georgia Office of Diversity and Community Partnerships, the awardees, along with the Georgia LGBTQIA Council, donated to two Georgia-based LGBTQIA organizations including Lost and Found and Chris 180.
Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine which has a storied history as a premier osteopathic medical school. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 678-225-7500.
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