Category Archives: Events

Perks as an Intern: ACA Open Enrollment Call with First Lady Michelle Obama

Written by Kayana Marks
January 30, 2015

Over the past few months I have been granted many opportunities working as the intern for Wilson-Stronks, LLC. Many of these opportunities allow me to learn so much about many aspects of healthcare. When I was asked by Amy to join the call with First Lady Michelle Obama about Open Enrollment during the LGBT Week of Action I was thrilled because I knew I would learn so much more about the Affordable Care Act. Dialing into the call on January 15 I had an open mind and a willingness to learn as much as I possibly could about my future career field.

First Lady Michelle Obama was the opening speaker and she was very grateful for all the work healthcare advocates had done so far. She emphasized that because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) millions of Americans have healthcare coverage for the first time. In light of the LGBT Week of Action, First Lady Obama mentioned that the ACA bans health insurance companies from charging LGBT persons higher rates. She stressed that now is the time for advocates to reach further back into their communities for Open Enrollment. As advocates for healthcare we are the leaders of our communities and the people trust us. First Lady Obama closed out her segment of the call by reminding us that we are indeed changing lives by making sure that every American has access to healthcare.

Immediately following First Lady Michelle Obama, Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, addressed the audience. Mrs. Burwell wasted no time in reminding everyone that the ACA has assisted many people in experiencing greater equality and greater healthcare coverage. Mrs. Burwell brought this to life by sharing a story of a lesbian woman who once said, “health insurance was always out of reach” for her. Now that she has more options she finds that “the relationship [with her partner] is respected”. Mrs. Burwell also pointed out that healthcare coverage can also be affordable now. Eighty-seven percent of those that have signed up for insurance have financial assistance. The many millions of Americans that the ACA has helped has shown to be the greatest increase in the last four decades. Mrs. Burwell noted that the Affordable Care Act has helped healthcare all around; from quality to equity.

As the call rounded up with questions I realized that we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. As an intern in the healthcare field, as a future medical student, and as a future physician I could not help but think of my role in healthcare. I appreciate what I am learning now and I look forward to how I will apply my acquired knowledge to improve healthcare.

*This blog entry ONLY reflects the views and experiences of Kayana Marks.

Have Soapbox; Will Travel

By Amy Wilson-Stronks

Last month I delivered the keynote address at the American Medical Association’s Fall 2014 Commission to End Health Care Disparities Meeting. I was flattered to be asked to speak to a room of accomplished healthcare professionals who are leading efforts to improve healthcare by addressing healthcare disparities. I envisioned this as an opportunity to share some observations made during the years that I have been working toward the same goal/directing efforts in the same direction.

Specifically, I saw this unassuming audience as an opportunity to get on my soapbox, a position I find myself on with increasing frequency as I continue to work in healthcare. The title of my talk was Putting Patients in Patient Safety: Lessons Learned.

When tasked with delivering the keynote, I was told to “ ‘ignite’ the audience; give them something provocative to consider, something that will keep them awake during this dinner time presentation”. Since the focus of this group is the reduction of health disparities with the ultimate goal of eliminating disparate care, I believed I could deliver.

Why? Because fundamentally, our current systems are so flawed that none of us will EVER be able to eliminate disparities for any vulnerable or underserved group. I envisioned this message: Give up, we are wasting our time!

No, that was not my opening line. But beneath my remarks, that sentiment muttered like a mantra; it was the gist of my talk, whether articulated or not.

Why am I so negative? Several reasons. And, yes, these are points I shared with my esteemed colleagues.

There is no such thing as racism, sexism, (Insert any “ism”) .
“Not in my backyard,” “We treat everybody the same.” It would be short sighted and inaccurate to blame healthcare organizations for racial, ethnic, and other healthcare disparities. However, since health care is received at healthcare organizations, they necessarily are essential to the solution. Yet, many do not believe that they are culpable, nor do they think it is a problem that they need to address as a priority.

If our care organizations are not interested in evaluating the care they provide to various population groups that have been identified at the national level as suffering from health and healthcare disparities, then how will we recognize when we are doing things right? I have found that many healthcare organization leaders are not aware what is happening across their organization during patient-provider interfaces. They may set expectations that all patients are treated with dignity and respect, but they aren’t told, nor do they observe the Emergency Department staff comment, “Oh no! Not another Ebonics. I wish my shift would end already!” They don’t realize how unconscious and conscious bias can create a chasm between providers and patients from different racial and ethnic groups. And the bias isn’t only between providers and patients, but also among employee groups, as one HR professional once confided to me when asked about the lack of racial diversity in his organization,

“You know, the blacks (employees) really need to get over (themselves); Slavery was over a hundred years ago.”

Yeah, I guess we all need to get over it. But that won’t eliminate disparities.

Meaningful Use isn’t Meaningful
Meaningful Use is designed to establish a degree of data accessibility across the healthcare system to support care transitions, improve data access and communication, and improve systems for monitoring and evaluating quality by introducing uniformity and compatibility. This makes sense. And it is necessary for us to really understand how healthcare disparities present, what causes them, what removes/improves them, etc.

Unfortunately, the data necessary for us to address healthcare disparities are rarely captured, and if captured, they are rarely accurate.
“Only Press Ganey Data Matter”
“We have the data field right here.”

We need to incite collective action to incentivize the vendors of Electronic Health/Medical Record (EH/MR) systems to create adaptable programs for the collection of data on patient race, ethnicity, and preferred language. To the AMA, NMA, NHMA, AHA, and all others working to improve healthcare and advance equity– please join us on our soapbox.

If we still can’t get this right after more than 10 years, how are we ever going to effectively collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity?

Our Systems of Care Aren’t Designed by Patients
“If you listen to your patients CAREFULLY they will give you the diagnosis; if you listen a bit longer they will give you the treatment”

“Only physicians are capable of judging what is or is not good medical practice. Patients and hospital personnel may learn to recognize good practice but only the physician can accurately evaluate its quality.”-Explanatory Supplement to the 1965 Joint Commission Hospital Standards.

“Well, when I am in their room and they are all talking in another language I feel uncomfortable. I feel as if they are talking about me. I don’t like that.”

“Although my doctor knew all about me, each encounter with new people—with blood draws, ultrasound, breast x-ray, etc.—had the basic anxiety of the procedure and layered on to that, the possibility of homophobia and having to watch out for myself” ¹

If patients cannot communicate with their caregivers, then caregivers can’t do their job.

Unfortunately, many things complicate communication, such as trust, fear of hospitals, cultural beliefs and practices, conscious and unconscious bias as well as basic human assumptions. Healthcare professionals must involve the patient in every aspect of their care and not make any assumptions.

This drives the work we do at Wilson-Stronks. We want to Improve Healthcare. And we know that the only way to do so is to work collaboratively and act collectively. This collaboration and collective action must involve our patients. We were honored to be asked to share some of our experiences “in the world” with the AMA Commission to End Health Care Disparities.

¹ Margolies L, Scout NFN. LGBT Patient-Centered Outcomes: Cancer Survivors Teach Us How To Improve Care for All. April 2013.

Note: All other quotes are reflections of my thoughts from information that others have shared with me.

GLMA 2014 Annual Conference and Nursing Summit

Posted by Amy Wilson-Stronks

GLMA Conference September 10-13
The 2014 GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality Conference and will take place September 10-13 in Baltimore, Maryland. Amy Wilson-Stronks is concluding her board term as Vice President of Education at the conference, but will remain active in GLMA as a member of the new Nursing Section and continue as a member of the Education Committee. GLMA has an increasingly strong interest in facilitating mentoring opportunities for students and young professionals in the health professions, and will be hosting a mentoring event to allow students as well as young and seasoned professionals to network and learn from each other. For more information, please visit the GLMA website at

GLMA Nursing Summit September 10th
The second annual GLMA Nursing Summit will precede the GLMA conference and take place on September 10, 2014. The nursing summit focuses on LGBT issues in the nursing field and provides LGBT allies and supporters with the tools they need to improve LGBT healthcare. A table topic will be facilitated on the organizational climate around LGBT health and nursing. The conference is highly anticipated after the interest and strong turnout generated in 2013.

glma board white house briefing

Wilson-Stronks at the White House

Posted by Amy Wilson-Stronks

On July 24, 2014, Amy Wilson-Stronks, on behalf of Wilson-Stronks LLC and GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, was invited to and attended a special White House Briefing on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the LGBT Community, sponsored by the Office of Public Engagement. LGBT health advocates from across the country were engaged through presentations and panel discussions from grassroots policy and advocacy organizations working to support LGBT enrollment under the ACA.

Briefing highlights included the release of Out2Enroll’s Key Lessons for LGBT Outreach and Enrollment under the Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s proclamation declaring Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Transgender Pride Month, 2014.

“It was incredible to see so many people come together to discuss solutions to healthcare access. LGBT people suffer disproportionately in access to quality healthcare, and that is why having targeted interventions to communicate, educate, and support the LGBT community during the rollout of the ACA is so important. Kudos to the White House, Out2Enroll, and all of the stakeholders for supporting access. Wilson-Stronks will work to do our part to share this valuable information.”—Amy Wilson-Stronks

As much as this briefing celebrated success, it also recognized some of the ongoing challenges including spread of misinformation outside of the ACA marketplace, lack of public understanding of the differences between the ACA and private marketplaces implementing the law within faith-based institutions (such as Hobby Lobby), access to specialized care for the transgender community, states that have not expanded Medicaid, and states without state exchange programs. Important questions were also raised regarding the limited choice of providers and the expansiveness of the network of providers for consumers enrolled in the marketplace.

Pictured (left to right from top row) GLMA Board members: Sarah Fogel, Henry Ng, Travis Sherer, Amy Wilson-Stronks, Adam Crosland, Hector Vargas (Executive Director), Ed Craft, Jesse Joad, and Laura Hein.

Putting Patients in Patient Safety

Wilson-Stronks is readying to launch our patient advocacy program “Putting Patients in Patient Safety” this fall. Prepare yourself to be smart about healthcare! Join us and our special guest Ilene Corina (PULSE of New York) to learn from a national expert and ensure you and your family receive high quality healthcare! For more information email

Don’t Miss the Annual GLMA Conference this September!

Don’t miss the annual GLMA Conference September 18-21st in Denver Colorado. Regular registration ends August 23rd.****Register here: Amy Wilson-Stronks will be presenting on a plenary panel titled Improving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Care as Culturally Competent Care, with Ignatius Bau, Independent Heath Policy Consultant, and Mateo Ledezma, Clinical Director of the Center of Excellence in Culturally Competence Care for LGBTI Health Equity at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.

This session will be held Friday, September 20th from 11:15 am-12:15pm.

More about the plenary panel:

In the past few years, U.S. health care providers and systems have increased their awareness of the importance of providing culturally competent care to diverse patient populations. Principles of cultural competency and of patient- and family-centeredness have become integrated into national health care quality frameworks, standards and measures. This session first will provide an overview of cultural competency frameworks, standards, and measures adopted by national health care quality and accreditation organizations such as the Institute of Medicine, Liaison Committee on Medical Education, Association of American Medical Colleges, National Quality Forum, Joint Commission, National Committee for Quality Assurance, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. As cultural competency becomes recognized as an essential element of health care quality, awareness of the unique health issues and health care disparities experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients and families also has increased. This session will make the case for ensuring that improvements in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health care are essential to achieving high quality, patient- and family-centered, culturally competent health care.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this plenary session, attendees will be able to identify cultural competency measures used by at least three national health care quality and accreditation organizations.
By the end of this plenary session, attendees will be able to define the concepts of cultural competency and of patient- and family-centeredness.
By the end of this plenary session, attendees will be able to make that case that improvements in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health care are essential to achieving high quality, patient- and family-centered, culturally competent health care.

Quality Healthcare for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender People: A Four-Part Cultural Competence Webinar Series

If you missed the November 15th webinar, you are in luck! GLMA is offering an encore presentation!

The November 15th webinar was so successful that GLMA and the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions is offering it again on Thursday, December 13 at 3pm Eastern.

To register please visit Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Nathan Levitt, RN, Community Outreach and Resource Nurse
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, New York, NY

Learning Objective
By the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:
Describe barriers faced by LGBT people in accessing healthcare and why these barriers exist.
Identify concrete tools to incorporate into your school, organization, hospital, or healthcare center to create a welcoming and safe environment for LGBT people and families.

About the Series
The webinar series is an education program open to anyone interested in learning about the healthcare needs of LGBT people. This cultural competence four-part series will explore the health concerns and healthcare of LGBT people. We will review the social determinants that influence how LGBT people seek and receive care and the impact those influences have on health. We will virtually follow the experience of LGBT people and those of us who care for them to better understand how we can create healthcare environments that are welcoming and can help minimize the existing disparities experienced by this population. We will delve into the clinical concerns specific to LGBT persons- both in terms of physical health and mental health- so we can better understand how to create comprehensive systems of care that support positive outcomes and experiences for LGBT people and result in high quality healthcare.

A partnership between Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Quality Healthcare for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender People: A Four-Part Cultural Competence Webinar Series

Plan to Attend! 8th National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations

Plan to Attend

The Eighth National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations: Achieving Equity in an Era of Innovation and Health System Transformation

March 11-14, 2013, Oakland, California

New partnerships between health care organizations and communities, research into improved ways to deliver care, and changes in health care policy are opening up opportunities to achieve equity and the highest quality health care for culturally diverse populations. In this time of transition, practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and advocates for health equity can focus attention on implementation, participation and improving health outcomes for individuals and communities. The 2013 conference will offer participants the opportunity to hear from experts and front-line leaders about how diverse populations are affected by:

state and national reform efforts
changes to the Medicaid program
innovative technology for information management and outreach
social determinants of health
other practice and financing developments.
As always, the conference will continue to feature both established and innovative cultural and linguistic competence and disparity reduction programs and policies from across the country and abroad. Support the conference by spreading the word! Please forward this email to your friends and colleagues. All conference details are available on the DiversityRx website. For any questions about the conference, contact us

Stronks and Wilson-Stronks to Present on Faith-based Healthcare at 30th Annual GLMA Conference

On September 19, 2012 the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association kicks off its 30th Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA. Amy Wilson-Stronks will be presenting with Whitworth University’s Lindaman Chair Julia K. Stronks, JD, PhD on the topic, Faith based Healthcare and the LGBT Community: Recent Advances and Barriers to Equitable Care. This session will explore the real and perceived barriers faced by faith-based institutions as they navigate care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients and families. Stronks’ research on faith, law, and public policy will inform a discussion around efforts to promote LGBT equity and patient-centered care in faith-based institutions. Amy Wilson-Stronks will share her work collaborating with Catholic Health Systems to integrate LGBT health equity into overall cultural competence strategy.

The session is scheduled for Thursday, September 20th at 1:30 pm. For more information visit: