Page 44 - Healthcare News SepOct 2021
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  Leah Martin Photography
She Pioneered Appropriate Care for a Population That Sometimes Lacks It
HBy Mark Morris
ealthcare was Aleah Nesteby’s second career goal.
“My first career goal was to be a standup comic, but I
eventually realized I didn’t have the stomach for all the rejection that involved,” she said.
As it turned out, comedy’s loss was healthcare’s gain.
For the past several years, she has been a family nurse practitioner and director of LGBTQ Health Services at Cooley Dickinson Health Care — and is now beginning a new career at Transhealth Northampton.
In doing so, she will continue her pioneering work providing culturally sensitive healthcare for often-marginalized populations — work that many health organizations have since adopted, long after Nesteby became an early pioneer in this region — and a true Healthcare Hero.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, members of the LGBTQ community face an increased risk of health threats due to discrimination and stigma. In her role with Cooley Dickinson, Nesteby has worked to bring more equity and compassion to healthcare for the LGBTQ community. As a practitioner, she has maintained a patient panel of about 500 people, many of whom are transgender.
It’s a passion that predates her medical career, to be sure. Since college, Nesteby has had an interest in healthcare among marginalized populations, but at the time, care focused specifically on LGBTQ people didn’t exist. In the early 2000s, while in San Francisco, she learned that some of her LGBTQ friends were not able to access healthcare.
“I thought, if my friends can’t access good care in San Francisco, is there anywhere they can?” she said. “I also
thought, well, I could do that.”
J. Aleah Nesteby
Director of LGBTQ Services, Cooley Dickinson Hospital
  So she did. And for her years of cutting-edge advocacy for this broad and sometimes misunderstood population, Nesteby certainly merits recognition
in the category of Innovation in Healthcare.
Training Ground
In addition to treating patients, Nesteby’s responsibilities include training providers and staff on how to make medical facilities more welcoming and inclusive.
“I thought, if
my friends can’t access good care in San Francisco, is there anywhere they can? I also thought, well, ”I could do that.
Much of the training I would call
LGBTQ 101,” she said. “It’s a discussion on how to treat people respectfully and how to engage them in language they would like you to use.”
One common question — she’s heard it countless times — challenges why LGBTQ patients should be treated differently than anyone else.
She explains that everyone has unconscious biases that play into their decisions about treatment for people.
“I try to help providers understand that, even though they think they are treating everyone the same, some of what they are saying isn’t being received by the patient in the way it might have been intended.”
For instance, microaggressions are a common issue — those backhanded compliments and minor comments that might not be insults, per se, but add up in a negative way to the person who hears them. A gay or lesbian person might be told, “I couldn’t tell whether you were gay or straight,” and a transgender person might be asked what their old name was.
“It’s these low-level, unpleasant interactions that many medical folks aren’t even aware they are doing,” Nesteby said, emphasizing that
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