June 3, 2023 | K. Elliot Higgins III, MD
The DAPM Handoff interviewed K. Elliott Higgins, MD, DAPM Director for Health and Well-Being, about Pride Month and the DAPM Venice Pride Brunch on June 3, 2023.
What inspired the creation of the LGBTQIA+ in DAPM group? How did it come to be?
Honestly, I think a few forces have led to these efforts locally here in the DAPM. This true team effort is rooted in our amazing LGBTQIA+ community here in our department (with an incredible presence of allies!). In some ways, organizing has felt very natural. I think it's really important to point out, though, that outside of our walls efforts like ours have become more and more needed recently. There has been an alarming rise in anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, acts, legislation, and general animosity over the past several years. Because of this, at organizations such as ours, there have been an increasing number of efforts organizing to demonstrate resolute and unwavering support for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Within the anesthesia world, there have been efforts on the national level to enhance support for our incredible LGBTQIA+ providers and patients. I personally have been involved in these efforts, most notably through the new ASA LGBTQ+ Ad Hoc Committee. This work has given me some additional insight into why groups like ours are so important right now. I am so proud of our team here, and I think the broader picture is that this is a crucial time to demonstrate support for, and embrace, our LGBTQIA+ people.
In my work with various efforts and organizations, I have had potential residents or medical students come to me seeking guidance—asking questions such as “Will I be accepted?" or "Can I be out in medicine?" My hope is that our efforts with the LGBTQIA+ in DAPM will embolden our safe spaces, project inclusivity, and demonstrate appreciation for anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+. Ultimately, we can help people live life as their full selves and create a sense of community, belonging, and safety. Especially in the work we do, psychological safety is critical. Beyond this, I also see opportunities for our group to participate in community service locally and to be actively engaged in educating our team on LGBTQIA+ health topics.
Could you share some highlights from the DAPM Venice Pride Brunch?
This was such a great event! Kudos to Dr. Vallera for hosting the Pride Brunch at her lovely Venice home. Representatives from across our department gathered -- trainees, faculty, CRNAs, researchers, and more! Socializing amongst LGBTQIA+ (and allies!) in a visible way is one way to help some people feel a little safer and more welcome in a world that sometimes can be really hard for our community. I brought my husband and my parents who were visiting from Connecticut. We ate pastries from Superba, fresh fruit/salads, and sandwiches from Bay Cities Italian Deli (honestly, some of the Westside's best brunch options...). Be on the lookout for more community supporting events like this.
What is the significance of Pride Month?
I can give you my personal take on this - I think Pride means something different to everyone.
To me: PRIDE is joyous and a celebration of the truly diverse LGBTQIA+ community. Pride is about creating spaces where we can, as our full selves, with those we love, come together and say hey, here we are! We are visible, we matter, and we are proud. I do think Pride this year has taken on serious layers for many. Pride is also about human rights, after all. Historical events, such as the Stonewall Riots, are part of the foundation of pride. Today we still stand up as a community advocating for inclusion, equality, and dignity for all without exception.
What are your hopes for the future of LGBTQIA+ in DAPM? How can the department be of support?
I think a lot of our hopes and goals align with our broader JEDI efforts—we're all stronger together, right? But to focus on the LGBTQIA+ in DAPM specifically: my hope is that we can help our LGBTQIA+ community here at UCLA feel as welcome, included, and safe as possible. I also hope we can contribute to the crucial work in this space going on beyond our walls -- whether that be acts of community service here in Los Angeles, educating providers on how to provide excellent gender affirming care, or collaborations with outside institutions on efforts rooted in academic inquiry (e.g. research looking to define how we can best foster psychological safety in the workspace for LGBTQIA+ individuals).
Anything else you’d like to share?
Just want to emphasize that this really has been an incredible team effort, and I'm so proud to be but one part of that. Happy PRIDE—looking forward to the remaining events we have this month, including the Dodgers game on 6/16!