Safe Zone initiative spurs a culture of inclusion

Story Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:11:00 EDT

When Stacy Forbes (MPA Class of 2016) was trying to narrow down which physician assistant programs to apply to, she searched the schools’ websites to find any mention of “lesbian,” “gay” or “LGBTQ” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer) community.

“I tried to look up if there were clubs or anything outside of the day-to-day school activities that I could be involved in,” Ms. Forbes says. “I was coming from out of town, so it was important for me to feel like I was moving to an area that was LGBTQ safe or would be OK with who I am.”

Though she didn’t necessarily find what she was looking for initially, it did not deter her from matriculating at EVMS. Instead, once she arrived on campus, she knew she wanted to make sure that future LGBTQ applicants would feel comfortable about their decision to come to EVMS, too. Ms. Forbes, Shannon Kluttz (MPA Class of 2015), Jon Loring (MD Class of 2016), and their faculty adviser Larry Pasquinelli, MD, MPH (Pediatrics Residency '95, MPH '12), Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, and a few peers formed the EVMS Alliance Group, a student-run club that provides LGBTQ individuals and supporters a forum to engage in, learn about and discuss LGBTQ issues.

The EVMS Alliance Group is now working with others across campus on the Safe Zone initiative, a nationwide program designed to train individuals who are open to or knowledgeable about LGBTQ issues. Those individuals — or allies — then display a Safe Zone symbol to demonstrate they are accepting, supportive and can offer a confidential, “safe” place for others to confide in.

“I think creating a safe zone at EVMS is a proactive step to providing an inclusive space so all types of students feel empowered to reach their full potential,” Ms. Forbes says. “This way people don't feel like they have to keep part of their lives a secret.”

The interactive Safe Zone training gives participants the tools they’ll need to be an effective ally by teaching terms and concepts relevant to the LGBTQ community.

“Safe Zone training is not only for LGBTQ individuals, but rather the community as a whole,” she says. It means that participants are supportive of all individuals and that their offices and environments are considered judgment-free zones.

Read this story and more in the next issue of EVMS Magazine. Pick up a copy on campus or read online May 2015. Subscribe for free to receive a copy by mail.



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