Participants learned about the developmental, social and emotional experiences of LGBTQIA persons so they can help to create a welcoming campus community.
Eight PCOM Georgia students, faculty and staff members recently graduated from the six-hour PCOM Safe program offered by the Office of Diversity and Community Partnerships. The consciousness-raising content was interactive and involved video, small group discussions and other exercises.
“People’s hearts and eyes were opened,” program facilitator Elizabeth Levine, MA, the assistant director of the organizational development and leadership program at PCOM Georgia, said. “Participants had to have a willingness to let that happen. In some cases, it required putting aside momentarily or letting go of some long-held beliefs. I really admire folks who are willing to be a bit uncomfortable while learning something new.”
She added, “They felt that professionally it was something they needed to do, and many came to realize it was beneficial overall. Based on what participants reported, I believe everyone left feeling more comfortable in supporting and working with members of the LGBTQIA community. That’s great news. That’s exactly what Aisha (DeBerry, the director of diversity and community partnerships) and I were hoping for.”
The program’s mission is to promote acceptance and awareness of the diversity of gender identity and sexual orientation on campus, to provide a community of allies for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual/allied (LGBTQIA) people, and to provide evidence of and visibility for the support of LGBTQIA people and their allies within the PCOM community.
At the final ceremony and luncheon, program participant Shafik Habal, MD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, said, “I am positive students feel more comfortable talking to me now because I work harder to accommodate them.”
The goals of the program include providing participants with a common foundation for the understanding of developmental, social and emotional experiences of LGBTQIA persons and promoting a common understanding of the language associated with persons who identify as LGBTQIA.
In addition, one of the goals is to clarify the role of an ally in general and at PCOM, and facilitate discussion of the “coming out” process and stages of development. The program also works to provide opportunities for self-reflection of personal issues regarding the topic of LGBTQIA people.
Administrative Services and Events Manager Kim Lucier said, “It was great being part of the first graduating class of this program. I found it to be a very safe, comfortable environment where you could ask questions to learn more about this topic. I feel like I received top notch training on this very important issue.”
Bridget Bexho, experiential education credentialing coordinator at the PCOM School of Pharmacy, said, “We created several ground rules for our class such as being respectful, honoring confidentiality, keeping an open mind, not passing judgment, staying curious and being empathetic. I am glad to have gone through this program as I gained valuable information through our discussions and lessons. I am also very proud to be an ally and happy to provide a safe place for whomever I cross paths with both here and outside of PCOM.”
DeBerry, a co-facilitator of the program, credited PCOM’s Chief Diversity Officer Marcine Pickron-Davis’ leadership with moving the course forward. “It was something she was very committed to,” DeBerry said.
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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