Share This

Jefferson’s Point of Pride: The First LGBTQIA+ Practice in South Jersey Provides Compassion, Care

Martha Madrigal remembers the “dark times”—when the building that housed Jefferson Pride Care - Haddonfield, the South Jersey practice she depended on for healthcare, flooded out after a particularly bad storm and had to temporarily close its doors.

Madrigal, a 58-year-old trans woman, just held her breath and prayed she wouldn’t get sick for as long as it took to reopen. She says she was not going to walk into a regular practice for fear of the judgmental stares in the waiting room, the misgendering when being called, the possibility of not having her needs properly met by the medical staff, and the general indignities that members of her community suffer when seeking medical attention.

Often, Madrigal says, the choice for members of the LGBTQIA+ comes down to two options: not seeking health care at all or doing what feels more detrimental—“being disrespected.”  

Brayton Bowman, a 30-year-old professional singer/songwriter from Haddonfield, echoes that sentiment, preferring to avoid seeking care altogether rather than not feel safe.

Both Madrigal and Bowman say they breathed a sigh of relief when they discovered Jefferson’s Pride Care practice in Haddonfield, New Jersey—the first of its kind in the region dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ community.

“The LGBTQIA+ community traditionally does not seek healthcare, and even avoids healthcare for lots of reasons, including stigma, and not feeling wanted in the healthcare space,” says Todd Levin, DO, chief of medicine and medical director for LGBTQIA+ health services for Jefferson – New Jersey. “So, a few key physicians got together and brought this idea to senior leadership, and senior leadership was very supportive.”

With help from the proceeds of the 2020 Jefferson Health Foundation – New Jersey Gala, the practice was opened in a quaint brick building on Tanner Street in 2021. In July, 2024, the practice will relocate just two blocks away to 15 E. Redman Avenue and change its name to Jefferson Pride Care – New Jersey.

Initially, the practice offered primary care, infectious disease, and behavioral health. Within six months they added several other specialties, including gynecology, and are continuing to add more, such as top surgery, pulmonology, and sleep medicine. The practice also refers patients to preferred practitioners who are sensitive to the needs of the community.

The word “safe” comes up frequently when talking about healthcare in the LGBTQIA+ community. The concerns range from emotional to physical to not receiving proper medical treatment.

Jennifer Bidey, DNP, APN, a trans woman who is a nurse practitioner and the medical director of the Haddonfield Pride Care practice, recalls a particularly painful experience in a doctor’s office waiting room.

“They called me by my dead (pre-transition) name, and I stood up and everyone looked at me. And then I heard a laugh, and someone said a slur,” she says.

According to a national Health Services Research study, experiences of interpersonal discrimination are common for LGBTQIA+ adults, including slurs, microaggressions, sexual harassment, violence, and harassment regarding bathroom use.

Another concern is finding practitioners familiar with the health issues members of the LGBTQIA+ community face.

Bowman recounts a disheartening visit to a straight primary care physician in Philadelphia. When he asked about PrEP, a medicine taken to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, the doctor responded: “What’s that?”

Bidey says this is not unusual, and the majority of people who seek gender-affirming care often have to teach their healthcare provider how to care for them. And often, because of these kinds of concerns, many members of the Pride community turn to self-care, which can be dangerous.

“It can be expensive, and it is not regulated,” Bidey says. “Getting patients referrals to professionals who are trained in what they’re doing—that can do it safely and effectively—is crucial.”

Aubrey Taylor, a 25-year-old trans woman of color, began her journey with treatments found online.

Taylor, who began transitioning three years ago, was using an online medication service for her hormone therapy and transition support medications when she discovered Jefferson’s Pride Practice.

Her appointment with Bidey was life-changing.

“I feel like I had never been able to articulate and explain myself comfortably to another healthcare provider,” says Taylor, currently a health science major planning on becoming a nurse practitioner. “It’s a very warm, welcoming, open environment. It gives safe haven.”

Its entire staff is trained in intricacies of LGBTQIA+ care, and Jefferson Health medical residents rotate through the practice for experience. The practice also assists with insurance issues and offers a patient assistance fund for the uninsured or underinsured.

In the three years since the Haddonfield practice was established, a few more affiliated with other healthcare systems have opened. Bidey is thrilled, but still has hope for the day specialized clinics aren’t needed.

“Any patient should be able to walk into any facility and be treated with dignity and respect,” Levin says, adding that there is a lot more work to do, such as more courses within medical school, programs for medical residents that focus on caring for the LGBTQIA+ community, and educating those who work in all areas of healthcare.

“It’s not rocket science,” adds Madrigal. “It’s affirming care. It’s saying you matter as a human being.”