Drexel student Bobby Kelly was honored March 10 with the 2012 LGBT Health Achievement Award by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the American Medical Student Association for drawing attention to LGBT health issues.
Kelly, a fourth-year medical student, has been involved in many stages of this process, from working as a volunteer in youth clinics to organizing two national events to his role as the AMSA regional coordinator of the LGBT grassroots organizing committee from 2010 to 2011.
Kelly, who graduates this May and will be starting his residency in family medicine and preventative medicine at Concord Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, co-founded the LGBT Alliance of Students Organized for Health with fellow fourth-year Drexel medical student Allison Myers. The LASOH hosts a variety of events to bring together Philadelphia’s medical students to socialize and to provide support for LGBT health issues.
Myers and Kelly started working together when they were co-presidents of LGBT People in Medicine. During this time, the two found themselves needing to contact similar groups from other Philadelphia medical schools.
According to Kelly, LASOH got its start when the Mazzoni Center, an LGBT health and wellness facility in Philadelphia, was looking for medical student volunteers to help staff its newly opened adolescent drop-in clinic.
“We were originally just going to have it be part of the Drexel group, but we realized that if we wanted to have it on a consistent weekly basis, we would need to kind of branch out to other groups in other schools,” he explained.
Kelly and Myers began contacting similar groups from other Philadelphia medical schools and were able to get the number of volunteers the Mazzoni Center needed.
“I want to say, like, 60 or 70 people came out on a weeknight for an informational session on how they could volunteer. It was great,” Kelly said.
After the initial success, the collective of student groups became something a little more permanent, and LASOH was born. The organization — which combines students and student groups from several universities in Philadelphia, New Jersey and beyond — allows all the medical student groups that are advocates of LGBT health awareness to be united at events and to have a forum where they can meet, discuss ideas and socialize.
“Before, there was no talking to each other, and there was so much redundancy,” Kelly said. “There’d be, like, seven different tables of med schools [at events] doing things, and they’d be so fractured. Whereas now with LASOH you have folks from all the different schools getting involved are at one robust table.”
LASOH also brings in speakers and facilitates panel discussions while continuing to staff the Mazzoni Clinic and Washington West Project.
Kelly also organized two national symposia that featured guest speakers, breakout sessions and other activities. The first was an LGBT Health Student Symposium in Boston at Fenway Health May 2010, and the second was in Philadelphia at the Mazzoni Center in 2011.
“It was cool because there’s a lot to learn,” Kelly said. “It’s been nice to kind of get folks together who have experience in the different arenas to kind of share their knowledge with everybody.”
Because the symposium uses local student volunteers, many LASOH members were on hand for the Philadelphia event.
Twice a year, LASOH runs Happy Hour for Hygiene Kits nights where attendees bring travel-sized hygiene items instead of paying a cover. The items are put into kits given to “people who are housing insecure or homeless,” according to Myers.
“It’s just basically like a collection of toiletries: shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, stuff like that. And so we hold two of those donation drives a year, so that’s going to be coming up as well,” she said.
Since 1999 the annual LGBT Health Achievement Award has honored an individual, student group or medical school that has advocated for the inclusion of LGBT health concerns. Kelly received the award at the AMSA Convention and Exposition in Houston.
This year’s LGBT Health Student Symposium will be held in Chicago the weekend of April 20 with Howard Brown.
Any student who is interested in learning more about LASOH and its work is encouraged to visit its website: http://lasoh.wordpress.com/connect/.