These events have had a devastating impact on our community at large and on our Kaiser Permanente community, as many physicians and employees lost their homes in 2017 and have been rebuilding ever since. Along with my team of leaders, my most significant achievement has been that we have helped keep our county and medical center community safe.
What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of your organization, your work and/or your community activities when it comes to the Pride movement?
I’m incredibly proud of Kaiser Permanente’s commitment and proven dedication to health care equity for the LGBTQ community.
For example, we were one of the first health plans in the country to cover gender-affirming surgery. Before I transferred to Northern California, I served as the Administrative Director for the first-ever Kaiser Permanente Center of Excellence for Culturally Competent Care for LGBTQ Health Care Equity at Kaiser Permanente’s Los Angeles Medical Center.
I also helped organize and present our organization’s first-ever regional and national conferences on LBGTQ health care. In Northern California, I’m proud of advocating, along with my organization, for the needs of our most at-risk LGBTQ populations through our community benefit work.
Words that best describe you: Energetic, strategic, kind, warm, dedicated, and curious
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
Probably my self-doubt and internalized homophobia about what I might achieve as an out gay man in a very traditional industry and corporate environment. I came to health care as my second career.
I started out as a professional dancer, then went back to school to study health science and pursued my first master’s program in physical therapy, followed by a second master’s in health care administration.
I felt the pressure to succeed while balancing my non-traditional family’s needs. I was a different kind of parent in that my husband and I were co-parents with the lesbian couple we partnered with to have our three daughters. I was atypical on all fronts, yet felt pressure to ‘prove’ that I could succeed on all fronts, as a ‘model’ gay man, father, professional, etc.
I overcame these obstacles through a lot of work on myself and my own personal and professional development. I strove to bring my most authentic self to every situation, regardless of whether it was one with which I would not be included or comfortable with traditionally.
Now tell us who influenced, mentored or inspired you in the area of the Pride movement, and tell us why: LGBTQ health care champions have influenced, mentored, and inspired me at every point in my life and career. As a young man in the midst of the AIDS crisis,
I volunteered with the Shanti Project. Here at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa, there have been two physician leaders who have inspired me — Dr. Kate Feibusch and Dr. Rachel Friedman. In addition to being a champion for LBGTQ health care, Dr. Feibusch has founded health clinics and health care training centers in Guatemala.
As associate program director for our Family Medicine Residency Program, Dr. Friedman has dedicated herself to educating our medical center about unconscious bias and racial and ethnic inequities in health care.
Remi Newman is one of our health educators, and through her work, especially in HIV, she epitomizes the LGBTQ ally and passionate community advocate.
Dr. Richard Mehman was my physician partner when I was the Administrative Director for the first-ever Kaiser Permanente Center of Excellence for Culturally Competent Care for LGBTQ Health Equity at Kaiser Permanente’s Los Angeles Medical Center. He, too, is a passionate and fearless advocate for the health care needs of our community. He never hesitated to address important but uncomfortable topics with a community that was often woefully uninformed.
Nationally, I’m inspired by Dr. Ronald L. Copeland, Senior Vice President of National Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Policy and Chief Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Officer for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals. An African American man trained as a surgeon, Dr. Copeland has dedicated his professional life to equity, diversity, and inclusion, with the health care needs of the LGBTQ community always present.
Current reading: I recently finished “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles
Most want to meet: I am a devoted follower of the ‘Letters from an American’ writings of Heather Cox Richardson. She is a 19th-century American history professor at Boston College. I read her column every day, and her historical insight helps put today’s complex political landscape into perspective.
Stress relievers: Anything outdoors in Sonoma County or the North Bay. My job is so social; I’m around people so much that solitude and time for reflection are very restorative.
Favorite activities outside work: Time with my family and friends, including traveling to be with those who live in other parts of the world (once all COVID restrictions are finally lifted!). The importance of maintaining those connections and buoying each other up is a high priority.
Those who care about you, what would they say are your best qualities: My empathy, sense of humor, and commitment to my own development and helping people with theirs.