Equality in Healthcare


At this year’s Pride March in New York City, on Sunday, June 28, there was extra reason to celebrate: days earlier, on June 26, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, and dozens of NYULMC faculty, students, and staff were excited to show their support.

“We were so elated,” John Davidson, PA-C, director of physician assistant services, said of the historic ruling. He organized NYULMC’s participation in the march this year, highlighting the Medical Center’s efforts to reach people in the LGBTQ community and improve their healthcare experiences.

Wearing NYULMC purple, waving rainbow flags, and carrying signs with the “Made For New York” tagline, Mr. Davidson and about 50 others marched behind a banner that read “Equality in Healthcare,” and distributed pamphlets about our LGBTQ Advisory Council. After joining the march last year for the first time, this year our marchers were escorted by an ambulance, also emblazoned with “Made For New York” and the NYU Langone logo.

“The crowd really responded—the people watching were cheering with us. Every time we were announced, everyone was screaming,” Mr. Davidson said. He added that having a presence at the march—documented on social media using the hashtag #OutToHeal—sends an important message to the LGBTQ community.

“I think we’re showing patients that so many of us at NYU Langone Medical Center care about them,” Mr. Davidson said. “That we’re going to come out to an event and show our support. And let them know that they’re not alone. We are all part of this community. We’re inclusive of everyone who walks through our doors.”

Many Reasons to March

Among the most colorful marchers on Sunday was care manager Stephen Markley, MSN MBA RN, dazzled the crowd dressed up in drag as his off-duty personality, Champagne Bubbles.  Mr. Markley, who is co-chair of the LGBTQ council at NYULMC, marched in a white leotard and rainbow wig, said his participation was especially personal.

“My family still doesn’t understand. They feel that me being gay is some sort of choice, and an illness that can be cured,” he said. “I moved to New York City six years ago. It’s amazing that I have all these friends, let alone a world-class organization like NYULMC that is accepting me, and backing me 100 percent.”

The march took the crowd past the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, the famous scene of violent riots between police and gay protesters in 1969. It’s a moment from Sunday that Mr. Markley vividly remembers.

“I was wearing five and a half inch heels,” he said. “I said to John, right as we’re turning the corner on Christopher Street, ‘This is the part where I start to have shooting pains up my legs.’ And John looked at me and said, ‘But this is the point that matters.’ We were right in front of Stonewall, where it all began.”

Leading the Way to Equal Care for All

Nearly a half century later, NYULMC is a leading advocate for gay rights and healthcare equality. “The real reason this is so important is that the LGBTQ community still does face healthcare disparities,” Mr. Davidson said. Those issues can lead to depression and anxiety, he added, also pointing out that substance abuse and rates of homelessness are higher among LGBTQ people.

The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for the LGBTQ community, has recognized NYULMC as a leader in its Healthcare Equality Index for the past three years.  The Medical Center is devoted to offering first-rate healthcare regardless of a patient’s gender or sexual orientation.

And the march gives us “a highly visible way to communicate that message,” said Emily Hacker, senior manager of training and education for Organizational Development and Learning. “It’s a great message to send to all New Yorkers—that our Medical Center cares, and is an inclusive healthcare organization, and really wants to make sure the LGBTQ community knows that we are there for them.”

Ms. Hacker added that the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage made the day even more special. “The crowds were particularly enthusiastic and we had a terrific group,” she said, noting that next year, she hopes to see even more staff and students from NYULMC behind the banner.