By Brianna Wilson

UNM Hospital Receives High Performer Award for LGBTQ+ Health Care Equality

New Mexicans already face an overwhelming number of barriers to quality health care like not having insurance, lack of housing and limited options for transportation. In addition to those struggles, many in the LGBTQ+ community also worry about being treated unfairly or disrespectfully by health care providers. 

University of New Mexico Hospital leaders strive to ensure gender or sexual orientation do not impact an individual’s care, treatment, or employment. That is why, for more than 10 years, New Mexico’s only Level-I Trauma Center has consistently been recognized nationally by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for its work toward health care equality. 

UNM Hospital was just awarded the 2024 LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer designation in the 16th edition of the National LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Index (HEI).

According to the HRC, they look at nearly 2,400 health care facilities nationwide for HEI. UNM Hospital ranks among 462 “High Performers” across the country.

Fabián Armijo, MHA

“UNM Hospital was the first hospital in New Mexico to be recognized by the Human Rights Campaign. We got this designation for the first time in 2013, and we have consistently been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign for all of our efforts to take care of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Fabián Armijo, MHA, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, UNM Hospital

To qualify for this prestigious recognition, participants must first answer questions about LGBTQ+ inclusivity in their health care facilities. The topics covered in the questionnaire include non-discrimination and staff training, patient services and support, employee benefits and policies, patient and community engagement, and responsible citizenship.

Fabián Armijo, MHA, executive director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for UNM Hospital said health care facility leaders can apply for this designation every two years. 

“It is a chance to really look inward at the hospital,” he said. “We look at our policies, our practices, we hear from the community about what they wish we had in our institution to help them have better health outcomes and feel more comfortable.”

Armijo said some of the changes implemented at UNM Hospital since 2022 include removing natal sex from patient bracelets and giving administrators the ability to bold or highlight a patient’s preferred name on their wrist bands.

Since 2017, Armijo said UNM Hospital also made changes to its electronic medical record. Natal sex is still recorded, but now patients’ preferred gender identity is recorded too. Those adjustments are included in updated employee training, so health care providers can learn how to best honor their patients’ identities and address them respectfully.

Armijo added that his team’s work to foster equality outside the hospital is just as important as the work within.

“One of the ways that we engage with the LGBTQ+ community as a hospital is going out there and marching for Pride, and there are a bunch of other events,” Armijo said. “Part of the mission of UNM Hospital is to serve the underserved, and I think we do this every single day. Every single person who works in the hospital helps us live that mission. We take care of people from everywhere.”

No matter where someone comes from or what their personal background is, Armijo said he is proud to know UNM Hospital staff have created and maintained an environment where everyone can feel welcome and comfortable.

 “Nobody wants to come to the hospital,” Armijo said. “Nobody wants to spend time away from their home and be here, but hopefully, when people see that we have this designation, it helps the queer community or the LGBTQ+ community feel more comfortable coming to us for their care. I think it shows that it is something that we take seriously and that we take a great deal of pride in.”

 Armijo said his team is already looking forward to the next application period, with a stronger focus on community engagement and social media presence.

 “One of the things I hope to achieve in the next two years is really building more trust with the LGBTQ+ community, and I think the way that we are going to do that is with more interaction outside of the hospital,” Armijo said. “You have to make time to listen to people and then really value the feedback that they give you.”

 For more information on the UNM Hospital Office for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, including resources, programs, upcoming events and how to contact your representatives, click here.

 To read the HRC’s full Healthcare Equality Index 2024 report, click here.

Categories: Diversity , Education , Health , Top Stories , UNM Hospital