NYC Health + Hospitals’ newest LGBTQ health center in the Bronx is celebrating its first year in operation under lesbian and ally leadership this month.
The Jacobi Pride Health Center is the sixth of its kind in New York City focused on LGBTQ health care and includes a Gender-Affirming Integrated Services Practice that the hospital has opened in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It is the first queer health center the hospital has opened in the Bronx.
The hospital’s award-winning lesbian chief operating officer, Jordana A. Bailey, oversees the Bronx’s LGBTQ health center, which is operated by ally doctors Dina Romo, the center’s medical director, and Elana Sydney, deputy chief of ambulatory care.
The center provides a one-stop shop for adult primary and preventative care, adolescent care, hormone therapy, PrEP, HIV and STI testing and treatment, OB/GYN and family planning, and specialty referrals. It also provides short-term counseling and social work support for referrals for patients. H+H sites also offer monkeypox treatment, while Lincoln is administering the monkeypox vaccine in the Bronx.
Lesbian at the top
Bailey, 49, believes it makes a difference to have LGBTQ and ally leaders and practitioners in health care. Living as an out lesbian makes a difference in providing quality health care services for LGBTQ patients.
“I think the fact that I’m open in my life and to be able to share that really shows compassion and empathy — that we can have others come in and feel the same way,” Bailey said.
The self-described “borough girl,” born and raised in Ridgewood, Queens, credits her success to her support system, which includes her fiancée, Patti Tompkins; the couple’s two dogs, Snickers and Sadie; and their family and friends. The couple now lives in Danbury, Connecticut.
That support system, she said, was “crucial” to her success — especially after she came out at 19 years old and switched careers at 27 years old, going from working as an executive at FedEx to serving in health care in the aftermath of 9/11. Being at ground zero that day reminded her of what she wanted to do with her life, she said, and she has been at Jacobi for six years and with the hospital for nine years. She describes her current role as her dream job.
It’s her goal that the center, hospital, and her team provide similar support for the Bronx’s LGBTQ community by making people feel comfortable providing “open, compassionate, empathetic, and quality care” for their well-being when they come to any of the health care provider’s centers and hospitals.
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public health care system in the US. It serves 1.4 million New Yorkers in all five boroughs. Since 2011, the hospital has been at the forefront of LGBTQ health care when it became the first US public health care system to mandate all staff to be trained in LGBTQ cultural sensitivity.
This year, NYC Health + Hospitals was designated as an “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader” for the sixth consecutive year by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Eighteen of its patient care facilities across all five boroughs were recognized in the 2022 Healthcare Equality Index survey.
“I’m doing what I love. I’m helping people and I’m in operations, which is my passion,” Bailey said.
“I’m proud that our CEO supports us in leadership roles. I’m proud that many of our employees feel comfortable to ‘come out’ and open up because they feel that they work for an employer that can actually support them,” Bailey added. “So, they can come to work, make money, support their family, and feel themselves and be happy.”
Here for you
On the flip side of that equation, Bailey said, “We’re really patient-centered for LGBTQIA patients.”
Bailey praised the work of Romo and Sydney as she pointed to the team’s emphasis on taking a compassionate approach to care.
Kylie Moralez, an 18-year-old transgender straight woman, felt it was the first time she was being heard when she started going to the clinic. She was especially happy that the doctors and staff respected her name in an affirming environment.
This is one of the reasons why many queer and gender non-conforming people are not out to their doctors. Last year, the Williams Institute reported that while 71% of Black LGBTQ people were “out” to their health care providers, overall, many hid their sexual orientation and gender identity. The report also found that some Black LGBTQ adults reported being somewhat worried that their sexual orientation or gender identity would affect the quality of health care they receive.
Moralez told Gay City News that she is thrilled with the services she’s received during her regular checkups and hormone treatment since her doctor at Jacobi referred her to the center.
“Everybody is just super friendly [and] very welcoming,” said Moralez.
It has been a successful year. The center has nearly 100 patients and is growing as LGBTQ people in the Bronx discover it, Bailey said.
She sees the potential to serve more people who need reliable health care.
“We can definitely exceed our targets of where we are,” she said. “I know the community we serve and how many people out there really needed it.”
Romo, 40, a pediatrician specialist, and Sydney, 51, want more LGBTQ Bronx residents to utilize the services they are providing at the center and the hospital, they said.
“I love working with this population,” Romo said. “I think for some it’s like one of the very first times anyone in the medical field has taken the time to listen and to care. I love to take their life into consideration and provide them the nuanced care that I think everyone deserves.”
Romo said the Bronx’s LGBTQ patients have welcomed the center with “great enthusiasm and positive feedback.”
“People are impressed that that we’re even providing this service,” she said.
The Jacobi Pride Health Center is open Thursdays from 1:30-5 p.m. It is located at Jacobi Hospital, 1400 Pelham Parkway, South, Building 8, on the first floor. To make an appointment, call 718-918-7787. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org/jacobi-services/pride-health-center/