During Pride Month, the VHA Innovators Network (iNET) InnoVAtor of the Month features two iNET investees who have dedicated their intrapreneurial spirit to innovating for the LGBTQ community. Dr. Tiffany Lange-Altman and Dr. Michelle Hilgeman developed the “PRIDE in All Who Served” (PRIDE) program.
PRIDE is a 10-week health education group developed for LGBTQ Veterans, focused on reducing healthcare disparities. During these sessions, Veteran participants focus on improving their overall wellness and increasing social connection. The sessions also empower Veterans to engage in services related to their personal health care needs.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity matter in healthcare. This information is vital for us to provide culturally competent care to our Veterans. It’s just the right thing to do,” said Dr. Lange-Altman.
LGBTQ Veterans are at an increased risk for suicide and other healthcare disparities, due in part to discrimination and barriers to accessing care. The group helps to facilitate the dialogue about healthcare needs and works to connect LGBTQ Veterans to relevant services within the VA.
“Since coming to the group, I no longer want to kill myself. I have found others who support me,” said a black, trans, male, Veteran participant of his time in the group.
Early findings demonstrate significant changes on Veteran-reported outcomes after participation in the group including:
- Reduced the likelihood of attempted suicide
- Reduced anxiety and concern about acceptance
- Increased protective factors, such as community involvement and identity certainty
Grow, Adapt, Spread
As part of iNET Dr. Lange-Altman and Dr. Hilgeman receive support to grow, adapt, and spread their work. “
“Being a part of iNET means that we are part of a community of innovators that are striving to enhance and transform the system in a way that better serves our Veterans. Being an employee innovator means that we are looking for solutions to problems that others have accepted as routine. We want the system to be more inclusive, efficient and welcoming to all because we know it’s possible,” said Dr. Hilgeman.
“We are the PRIDE team and we are innoVAtors,” they both added.