Bay Pines VA Healthcare LGBT Observance

BAY PINES, FL – “Viva La Vida! Live the Life!” was the theme of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System’s annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) observance last month at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center.

More than 150 VA employees, Veterans, family members, and Tampa Bay residents attended the event to recognize and celebrate diversity and LGBT health care equality.

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“Bay Pines is committed to having the best cultural competency staff to serve our Veterans,” said Tanya Wieck, EEO Manger and Civil Rights Officer, Bay Pines VAHCS.

“That is what these programs are about…serving each other and understanding and respecting what we all bring to each other,” she said.

In addition to guest speakers and learning activities, the event featured a discussion panel comprised of leaders from various organizations to include St. Pete Pride, Equality Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays, Metro Wellness, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Edward Briggs, Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner and Bay Pines VA Special Emphasis Co-Chair.

“We are really taking an extra step to have events like this to make it very clear to Veterans that we serve all who served, that we’re here for everyone, and that we really want to know what their needs are so we can meet those needs,” said Briggs.

“We are not doing this from a profit motivation, or for some motivation for an award or something, we are doing it because we really care,” he said.

Panelist Todd Richardson of Equality Florida served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1980s. For the first time in a public setting, he shared his personal story of being a gay man in the military during “Don’t ask, don’t tell” – the official United States policy on military service by gays, bisexuals, and lesbians that lasted from 1994 to 2011.

“Bay Pines is doing a great job pulling our community together and being a good community partner with others to help promote a positive message about the LGBT community,” Richardson said.

“I hope that what I said today gives others a chance to come forward and to be treated and talk to people and counselors here at Bay Pines who experienced the same things that I did because there is help out there for people who need it.

In March, Bay Pines was designated as a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” for the fifth straight year by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization. The designation was reported in the 10th edition of the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), reflecting on a decade of progress in LGBTQ health care.

To learn more about the Bay Pines VA’s commitment to health care equality and future special events and celebrations, please visit www.baypines.va.gov or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Jason W. Dangel Public Affairs Officer Bay Pines VA Healthcare System 727.398.9531 | jason.dangel@va.gov

About Jeff Cavanagh

Jeff Cavanagh spent his freshman year at St. Petersburg Junior College back in the early 70s before enlisting in the United States Navy. Soon after, he attended Jacksonville University on a Navy ROTC scholarship. After college, he was commissioned and became a qualified Surface Warfare Officer spending the next 22 years honing his skills as a ship-handler and expert recruiter before retiring in 1994. Jeff expresses a deep sense of pride in St. Petersburg College due to connections that go back many years. His father, Tom Cavanagh, was a career Air Force fighter pilot and combat veteran who taught Geography and Western Civilization at St. Petersburg Junior College in the 60’s and 70’s.

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