Champion's Corner: LGBTQ+ Inclusion & Equity at UVA

Champion's Corner: LGBTQ+ Inclusion & Equity at UVA

by Gary Nimax, Assistant Vice President for Compliance; Chair, LGBT Committee

As someone who has been part of the UVA community for many years, I'm honored to talk about the strides we've made at UVA toward inclusion and equity for our LGBTQ+ community. Many of these advancements would have seemed impossible to me when I was an undergraduate student (CLAS ’87) or when I began my career at UVA as a buyer in Medical Center Purchasing in 1989.

Since its formation in 2011, the University’s LGBT Committee (which I’m privileged to chair) has worked with units across the institution to address areas of interest to faculty and staff in the academic division and Medical Center, including policies, benefits, events, and outreach. A key step toward inclusion and equity is having the appropriate policies and benefits in place. While the University’s non-discrimination policy has included sexual orientation since 1991, we added gender identity in 2014 and gender expression in 2019. Faculty, staff, students, and patients are covered by these protected classes. We partnered with HR to enhance transgender-inclusive benefits in the UVA health plan for transgender faculty and staff.

In order to build community, we created an annual welcome reception for LGBTQ+ employees, and additional events throughout the year. We foster partnerships in the local community as well, including co-sponsoring and marketing LGBTQ+ content hosted by the Festival of the Book and the Virginia Film Festival, and having a presence at Cville Pride each year.

We have partnered to create resources for transgender and non-binary communities such as standard signage and maps for all-gender restrooms, observation of International Pronouns Day, and a Transition Guide with logistics about name changes, gender markers, and university IDs. Additional training has been offered in conjunction with the Faculty and Employee Assistance Programs (FEAP) regarding LGBT issues in the workplace.

While the focus of the committee is on employees, we’ve worked with UVA's LGBTQ Center to improve the experience of our students as well. Our student health insurance plan includes domestic partner benefits and transgender health coverage. Student housing options have been expanded to allow unmarried students to live together in graduate student housing. The Open Housing initiative allows undergraduate students to live together regardless of gender and gender identity. Our Office of Admission added a question to our admissions application to identify students in the LGBTQ+ community, which provides a way to share information with them about the LGBTQ Center and student affinity groups.

The Campus Pride Index ranked UVA as #7 on its list of the best colleges or universities for LGBTQ students, using a national independent scorecard of best practices.

At UVA Health, the Transgender and LGBTQ Advisory Committee was formed to address concerns for patients and Medical Center team members. The electronic medical record system, Epic, was modified to record a patient’s preferred name, pronouns, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex assigned at birth to assist in treatment. New websites provide details regarding LGBTQ Healthcare Services and the Transgender Clinic and Related Services. UVA Health also developed two training modules for all team members: Delivering Compassionate Care to LGBTQ+ Patients and Documentation of SOGI Data in Epic.

The Human Rights Campaign named UVA Health as a "Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality" in its Healthcare Equality Index, a nationally recognized assessment of how well medical centers meet the needs of LGBTQ patients.

You can stay up to date about LGBTQ+ inclusion at UVA by visiting our webpage and joining the UVA Pride listserv. While there is more work to be done, I'm proud of how far the University has come. I look forward to advocating for our continued progress.