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The Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health held their annual conference in Center City on Mar. 24, this time with a focus on youth.

The event, which focused on the medical and health related issues facing members of the LGBT community, was largely organized by a board of LGBT youth from across Philadelphia — including two Penn students.

Rosemary Thomas, Program Coordinator for the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health, said the program decided to highlight youth at the conference because many LGBT youth struggle to find adequate health-related services.

The event featured two discussions largely made up of LGBT youth panelists. Adult professionals were included on the panels, however they focused on their experiences both as youth and with treating youth in medical settings. The panels focused on the health care system and larger, “holistic” frameworks — including the lack of knowledge of LGBTQ related issues among mental health care professionals and faith communities.

“Overall, I think the point of the panels was really to elevate [youth] voices over professional voices because they are the experts on their lives,” Thomas said. “It’s really powerful for professionals to hear real life experiences if they haven’t before”

Thomas, who worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an outpatient HIV clinic, explained that LGBTQ youth often find it difficult to find health care and social services that can fully address their mental and physical health care needs.

Phantazia Washington is the Coordinator of the Bryson Institute, the educational branch of the Attic Youth Center for LGBTQ youth. Washington assembled the youth panel responsible for planning and executing the event alongside the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT health. Washington, who uses they/them pronouns, became involved with LGBT culture at Penn through professor Amy Hillier, who worked together with Washington and a group of individuals at the Attic to craft a new policy for the School District of Pennsylvania regarding LGBT youth in June.

“I think that there were a lot of opportunities for both youths in the city and young professionals and young adults to speak to the piece of their world and their health that is important,” Washington said. “A lot of people heard and were able to walk away with something meaningful.”

Ian Jeong, Nursing senior and member of Nurses at Penn Understanding Sexuality and Healthcare said the panels “gave a very in-depth and yet raw perspective on LGBTQ health.”

Jeong said that the health conference ties in with Nurses PUSH and their advocacy for changing curricula across all 12 medical schools at Penn to more include LGBT related issues. However, Jeong noted the issues of accessibility regarding the event and other educational opportunities that follow this type of format

“One of the limitations of a conference like this is that it is a supplement, it’s not part of the core education,” Jeong said. “If you had the time and if you had the intention to go, then you have a great educational experience. But because it is taught outside the class room, material is only shared with people who went to the conference.”

Jeong hopes that the event will bolster support for LGBT health education, care, and representation within the healthcare communities at Penn and Philadelphia at large.

“I think [the conference] shows how there’s this push," Jeong said. "We want people to join in the fight and do their work on including the LGBT perspective.”