Advance with MUSC Health

Improving LGBTQ+ Lives and Health Outcomes with Chase Glenn, MS

October 06, 2021
Chase Glenn, MS

Many LGBTQ+ people face challenges or barriers when trying to receive health care. MUSC Health is taking on many new initiatives to address these concerns and improve the lives and health of this population. Chase Glenn was recently named the first director of LGBTQ+ Health Services and Enterprise Resources at Medical University South Carolina. He shares insights into navigating health care as a LBGTQ person and details how MUSC Health is doing to create a more inclusive community for patients, faculty, staff and students.

“I think MUSC is making this investment and really putting their stake in the ground and saying, ‘this is about our values as an institution and not because it's some specialized issue, but because it really is just about taking care of people..’”

— Chase Glenn, MS

Topics covered in this show

  • Glenn shares his background as a transgender man who has previously worked for the Alliance for Full Acceptance, which is an LGBTQ advocacy organization based here in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • He talks about research and anecdotes that suggest many LGBTQ plus people are not often asked about their gender or sexual orientation by providers and they wish they were asked that information.
  • He shares a story about being misgendered at an annual medical appointment in the past and how traumatic such instances can be for patients.
  • Over the next several months Glenn will be talking to people at all levels of MUSC Health to understand programs and policies in place and how to bring more inclusive space culture to patients, employees and the greater MUSC Health community.
  • He details trainings currently available to help people learn more about the LGBTQ community

Read the show transcript below 

Erin Spain, MS [00:00:04] Welcome to Advance with MUSC Health, I'm your host, Erin Spain. This show's mission is to help you find ways to preserve and optimize your health and get the care you need to live well. Today, we're talking about the unique health care challenges LGBTQ plus people face and what MUSC Health is doing to improve the lives and health of this population. Our guest is Chase Glenn, who was recently named the first director of LGBTQ+ Health Services and Enterprise Resources and Medical University of South Carolina. Welcome to the show, Chase.

Chase Glenn, MS [00:00:44] Thank you.

Erin Spain, MS [00:00:45] You have been an active member in the LGBTQ+ community in South Carolina for the past several years. So share with me your background and what led you to MUSC in your new role?

Chase Glenn, MS [00:00:57] I'm first and foremost important to this, you know, sort of this role, I'm a transgender man and some folks don't know that about me. I'm married to a woman, and we have two little kids together, and from the outside, they may not think initially that, Hey, I'm a trans person. I'm a part of this community, so it's personal to me. My background is I was born and raised in a small town in southern Illinois, went to college in Tennessee and made my way, eventually down to South Carolina. And previous to this role was the executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, which is an LGBTQ advocacy organization based here in Charleston, South Carolina. Through that role actually had great relationships with folks here at USC because we would advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ community in the health care space and did a lot of work partnering with them, MUSC folks on that. And so when this opportunity came up, this brand-new position was created, you know, knew that this was something I was really interested in because for me, the topic and the issues related to LGBTQ health care really get to the core of some really fundamental needs in our community. And being a part of MUSC's work in this area was just an incredible opportunity for me and I, and I had to take it.

Erin Spain, MS [00:02:13] And you are the first in this role that is never that easy to be the first at something. So tell me, how have you been getting your feet wet?

Chase Glenn, MS [00:02:20] So much of what I'm doing right now is just kind of going on a listening tour meeting with anyone and everyone who's interested in talking about LGBTQ health, learning what's already happening. Because I think it's really important to note just because we haven't had this role doesn't mean there hasn't been activity in this advocacy space. We have a number of providers and faculty members and researchers and clinicians who are doing this work already. They're working with LGBTQ patients. They are interested in these conversations. And so this work is happening already, and I'm really just here to kind of begin to connect those dots, develop a more cohesive strategy when it comes to our work in this community and be a part of hopefully leading this work across our state.

Erin Spain, MS [00:03:02] Let's talk a little bit broadly about some of the challenges or barriers that LGBTQ people face when trying to receive health care

Chase Glenn, MS [00:03:11] At its most basic level. Many members of our community aren't actually fully known by their providers, meaning many of our providers don't know the sexual orientation or gender identity of their patients. Seems like a really basic thing, and someone might say, why is that important? You know, I'm just treating someone for, you know, high blood pressure. Or maybe they need a knee replacement. Why do I need to know this information about them? But it's really base level sort of knowledge about a patient's identity and help provide them with respectful, competent care. Really, what we're looking at, first and foremost, is we able to collect this data? Do we know these things about our patients and are we able to do it in a culturally sensitive and competent way? So, you know, education and training is a big piece of that as well. So these are kind of the sort of the entry points into these conversations and how we're providing this care for for LGBTQ folks.

Erin Spain, MS [00:04:04] Because there may be doctors out there, they just assume heterosexuality is the default.

Chase Glenn, MS [00:04:09] Yes, absolutely. That is the assumption. And I will say assumptions aren't necessarily bad things. It's you know how our brains are, save time and are more efficient, right? We just go to what we already know. We make an assumption, and we can move forward. But in this instance, we really want to encourage folks to pause and to begin to ask these thoughtful and respectful questions of patients so we can learn who were treating and the best ways to treat them. And again, that big piece of that it was education because we don't want people just to engage in these conversations without being, you know, prepared for that and without and knowing where they're going with that. I think it's really important that we prepare our care team members to have these conversations to know what they're talking about and then to provide the highest quality of care.

Erin Spain, MS [00:04:56] It could be that some patients may avoid bringing this up. Maybe they're scared. You share this information, and there can be some serious consequences because they might be avoiding going to the doctor altogether. Tell me about how dangerous that can be for someone.

Chase Glenn, MS [00:05:11] Well, I think first I would highlight the fact that you know what you said there about being afraid and scared. A lot of LGBTQ folks have personally experienced discrimination and some sort of form, maybe not necessarily in health care, but in some other part of their life, maybe within health care, even if they haven't personally experienced discrimination, they may know someone who has. And so that sort of added level of mistrust, then of health care providers, I think, is something that is a barrier that a lot of folks who maybe haven't experienced that don't even think of. Let me give sort of my personal story a little bit here to share kind of what some of my personal experience has been in this area. I, as a transgender man, still have to go see a gynecologist. I have an annual cancer screening. It's important that that information is documented. Unfortunately, from my personal experience, I went to a provider and had the experience of being misgendered, being called back from the waiting room, being called Miz Glenn. And so you can imagine someone who looks like me and sounds like me. I'm called Miss Glenn, and I have to then go back, walk through the waiting room and have that sort of embarrassing experience. It was really traumatic for me, and I'm what I would call like a professional advocate. You know, like these are the spaces I'm used to navigating and having to educate people. Well, for the majority of folks, you know, they might have that sort of interaction with the provider and say, you know what, I'm not going to go back to that provider, and maybe they would just forego getting care altogether. Well, there's some potential negative health outcomes. If someone isn't getting the cancer screenings you need to get, they aren't having the evaluations you need to have. You know, these are these are big deals. If you don't have, you know, if you're fearful to go to the doctor, you know, you aren't able to get the preventative care that you need. And we know that preventative care is a key piece to your overall health.

Erin Spain, MS [00:07:02] Well, let's explore that a little bit. You know, why should an LGBTQ patient or parent explore music health when looking for a provider? And how can they go about finding someone that is trained and compassionate and understanding when it comes to this topic?

Chase Glenn, MS [00:07:22] MUSC is positioned in the state as a leader already in health care across the state of South Carolina, and because of our prominence in the state, you know, we probably have more access to more resources and services that maybe other providers might have. So I would hope that we would be top of mind if someone who's LGBTQ says, you know, hey, I'm looking for to find a provider. You know they would. They would come to MUSC. I hope that's the case. You know, as far as finding identifying those providers in full disclosure in the process right now of identifying the providers that we have in network, we know, you know, as MUSC continues to grow and expand, we have more and more providers within our system. But you know, we're doing the work to identify those providers to be sure that we're providing the most, you know, up to date information to people who are seeking the sort of care and these resources. You know, we're doing that work. Again, our position in the state and I think particularly as an academic medical center, I think we have a real opportunity to lead in this space in a way that there isn't another health system in our state that's doing this.

Erin Spain, MS [00:08:23] Well, tell me about some of those plans that are in the works right now. It sounds like you're trying to identify providers who either identify as LGBTQ or are very open and accepting to these patients. But what else is happening to create an inclusive culture for all members of the community when they come to MUSC?

Chase Glenn, MS [00:08:42] Yeah. Well, we're in the process of evaluating all policy procedure process thinking about, you know, when it comes to all the different sort of aspects, not only for patients but also employees here at MUSC. Thinking about, you know, how are we providing the most inclusive spaces, inclusive environments, whether it's a workplace or the care that we're providing for folks, you know? Are we, as I mentioned, we, you know, thinking about collecting and capturing this, this what we would call SOGI sexual orientation, gender identity, patient information. Are we standardizing that process across our health system? Are we preparing care team members to have those conversations? So evaluating the policies and processes that we have in place currently when it comes to documenting patient information and standardizing that process across the board so that, you know, when you go to your provider and you share your gender identity and sexual orientation, your pronouns to one provider, you go to the next and they have that information handy and they're able to be respectful of you and your needs from the get-go. Looking at our facilities, how are we creating physical spaces that are welcoming and inclusive of all people? And then beyond that, think, you know, because my role is. Enterprise wide, I'm interacting with students as well and advocating for inclusion within our six colleges here at MUSC and how we can really prepare clinicians and those who are going out in the workforce to be prepared as they as they leave our schools to do this work effectively with the LGBTQ community

Erin Spain, MS [00:10:22] And the students. Really, a lot of students are very active in this space. They want to see change. Tell me about that and how do they inspire you?

Chase Glenn, MS [00:10:31] Yeah, I mean, it's the students who are asking for this. They are really the ones driving the agenda. And a lot of ways they're the ones going to professors and saying, you know what? We don't feel like we're getting quite enough information on this. When we're looking at this younger generation, they are having conversations and thinking about things that many of us in years past didn't even have on our radar. I was born in 1978. I didn't have access to the internet all through high school. You know, I didn't even know I lived in a small town. I didn't even think I knew someone who was LGBTQ until I went to college. Young people today are having these conversations are much more well versed in these topics now. That, though, does not give us a pass because there's still a lot of need for these conversations. And I think we really should be intentional in including this in our in our curriculum.

Erin Spain, MS [00:11:24] What trainings are in place and what do you have planned to really educate the MUSC community?

Chase Glenn, MS [00:11:32] Currently within My Quest, which is our training platform where employees and students can go and access training, we have some existing course offerings that are there that we have brought in from the National LGBTQ Health Education Center, which is through the Fenway Institute. And so the recorded trainings, they really can provide a base level of understanding around LGBTQ health care on a number of different topics. We also have our safe zone ally training, which I think is a really great sort of next step for folks who want to go. And this isn't just clinicians. This is really open to anyone across the enterprise who's interested in these conversations, who want to go a little deeper in their allyship to LGBTQ folks. This is a really great opportunity to do that. And then beyond that, currently have an engagement with the Fenway Institute, who provided those sort of candid trainings to develop some custom trainings for MUSC. And so be on the lookout for those. I'm hoping within the next year will be a rollout training that will be really customized to our culture, our needs here at MUSC and really helping us to take it to the next level.

Erin Spain, MS [00:12:38] There are rural areas of South Carolina that MUSC Health serves. How are you planning to reach those populations that this may be more difficult for them to find providers? A lot of folks in those communities may not have the resources that we have here on the main campus. So tell me about that.

Chase Glenn, MS [00:12:57] We're going to be utilizing really leaning on our providers that are out in the different parts of the state to help us connect with our communities out there. These are early days, though I've only been in this role for five months, really still getting my feet underneath me. But, you know, looking forward to the opportunity to meet with our, you know, regional health network partners and to look at how we can really connect with the communities out there because I think that's going to be the link we have to these more rural parts of our state. I'm based here in Charleston, but we know there are LGBTQ people throughout South Carolina, not just in the metro areas. So we're going to be looking at how we can connect with those communities and make people aware of the resources we have here. I think that's a really important note. Like one, we can do a lot of work to make sure we have lined up lots of providers and clinicians who are well-versed in this work. We can have resources all day long, but if people don't know about them, what's the point, right? So you know how we're able to market and communicate the resources that we do develop is going to be just as important as having them,

Erin Spain, MS [00:14:00] And you have a very good understanding of the LGBTQ community needs. You are part of an assessment report and your previous role before you came to MUSC. Tell me what you found in that assessment report. Tell me about the report, what you found and how that kind of informs you as you're doing all of this work.

Chase Glenn, MS [00:14:19] We found out that there were some gaps at a really basic level. You know, we talked about how important it is to collect this, you know, sexual orientation, gender identity and patient information. And that's exactly what we found. We found that 41 percent of our respondents said that their doctors didn't know their sexual orientation. 50 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming respondents said their doctors didn't know their gender identity. It's really basic information, and it tells us that not only are these questions not being asked, but our community says, hey, we wish we were being asked these questions for people who say, you know what? That's invasive. Personal information, what does that have to do with the health care and providing, well, LGBTQ folks say, hey, it is important, and I wish I was being asked this information because so many of them maybe don't feel comfortable volunteering it on their own. We also found the number of folks said that they didn't feel like their providers knew the answers to their questions. So again, that kind of goes back to that cultural competency and being well versed in sort of the different issues that might be specific to LGBTQ folks and then also being aware of the resources that are out there so that when maybe they may not personally be able to provide something to a patient, they're aware of the resources that are there and are able to refer them. There was one person who replied and said of our qualitative responses on the survey, and they said, I don't think I've ever had a doctor proactively ask me about my sexual orientation or gender identity. If they don't ask for this basic information, how can they treat me? And I thought that really summed it up. It's just so basic we need to be asking these questions. We need to have this information so we can best serve this community.

Erin Spain, MS [00:16:03] What message do you hope you being appointed in this role? The fact that this role exists. What message do you hope that gives to the LGBTQ community in South Carolina?

Chase Glenn, MS [00:16:15] I've had so many folks reach out to me since I started this role from not just the Charleston area, but across the state who have said, wow, I am so excited to hear that MUSC is taking this seriously and has created this position. People who are employees of MUSC have reached out and said, hey, I'm just so excited that I work for an institution that is thinking this is an important conversation and has created this role. That, to me, really speaks volumes as to the need that's out there. And I think MUSC making this investment and really putting their stake in the ground and saying, you know, this is this is about our values as an institution and not because it's some specialized issue, but because it really is just about taking care of people. I think that really speaks to our community and says, you know what? This is an organization that really cares for people. I know people are excited about it, and I'm just really grateful for the opportunity to be here.

Erin Spain, MS [00:17:12] So there may be people listening to the show that are not in the MUSC Health or MUSC community, and they would love to educate themselves and find out more about things like terminology about, you know, for example, sexual orientation versus gender identity. What resources are out there for people who want to learn more?

Chase Glenn, MS [00:17:32] There's a number of national organizations that provide lots of resources in this area. I would recommend looking up Human Rights Campaign. The Trevor Project is another one. These organizations are well-respected and can provide lots of information that might be helpful to folks. And then specifically within the health care space, I'd recommend looking at Fenway Institute. I mentioned them already and that we're partnering with them to create some training for MUSC. They have a number of resources on their site that go into all sorts of different topics, whether in videos, publications, studies, all sorts of things that that might be helpful for folks looking for more information.

Erin Spain, MS [00:18:09] Well, my final question for you is what do you do to optimize your health and live well for me?

Chase Glenn, MS [00:18:16] You know, one of the most sort of important things is connection with others. So whether it's my community and friends or my family, having time spent with, it's intentional with folks is really important. You know, having two little kids under the age of three can be exhausting, but it's also really wonderful. And you know, for me, I've just enjoyed the extra time that I've gotten with them in the last couple of years, really, you know, connecting with them in a way maybe I wouldn't have been able to.

Erin Spain, MS [00:18:47] Thank you so much. Chase Glen for joining us today, telling us about this new role and all the exciting work ahead. And we'll have to check in with you later on to hear about some of the progress.

Chase Glenn, MS [00:18:58] Yeah, love that. Please, please do keep in touch.

Erin Spain, MS [00:19:03] For more information on this podcast, check out Advance With MUSC Health.