A Grant to Mary Bird Perkins Helps Provide Outreach and Early Detection to the LGBTQ+ Community

Mary Bird Perkins’ mission to improve survivorship and lessen the burden of cancer applies to every patient, caregiver and family member who walks through our doors. That inclusive approach fosters support, acceptance, respect and understanding. Across the communities we serve, the Cancer Center aims to provide underserved populations and those facing barriers to care an equitable cancer care experience. Through community conversations and research, it became clear in what ways the LGBTQ+ community is disproportionately impacted by cancer, and Mary Bird Perkins established a plan to act.

The Mary Bird Perkins team started by enlisting a diverse segment of the capital area’s LGBTQ+ community to learn more about needs and how we can bring convenient cancer prevention and detection resources to everyone in the region. And, thanks to a grant from the Prevent Cancer Foundation, funds were available to fuel the initiative. Through the Cancer Center, an LGBTQ+ community advisory group was formed, and immediately, their feedback was straightforward: many individuals were unaware of the specific cancer risks that affected them, creating a critical gap in prevention and early detection efforts. This knowledge underscored the pressing need to bridge these informational divides.

The community group helped identify the need for increased visibility of LGBTQ+ staff within healthcare organizations, dedicated, educational resources, and inclusive training for team members. These needs fit with Mary Bird Perkins’ longstanding inclusive and informed cancer care environment, where everyone feels seen, respected and individual needs are met.

Just a month after the LGBTQ+-focused discussions, the Cancer Center provided staff training sessions centered on increasing awareness, fostering open dialogue and establishing support systems tailored to address the unique cancer prevention and treatment concerns of the LGBTQ+ community. In addition, Mary Bird Perkins participated in the 15th Annual Baton Rouge Pride event, where we provided essential information about various cancers and early detection and prevention resources.

A significant ally in Mary Bird Perkins’ work is the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge. Together, our two organizations collaborated to offer free colorectal, prostate, skin, and oral cancer screenings at an event specifically for its congregation and the LGBTQ+ community. A total of 59 screenings were conducted, with 54% of those screened reporting being uninsured, 54% without a primary care physician and 63% never having been screened before.

The words of Timeless Tate, an LGBTQ+ community member, echoed the ongoing work to foster inclusivity: “I feel the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community is a work in progress. Mary Bird is a great supporter of health and equity and I feel good about it. They are improving access to high-quality cancer care resources in our community.”

To further demonstrate the Cancer Center’s dedication to inclusivity, we invited LGBTQ+ community members to an open-house reception and tour of our flagship location on Essen Lane. At this event, Dr. Kellie Schmeeckle, M.D., medical oncologist, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, emphasized the need for different types of screenings the LGBTQ+ community should be aware of.

Bobbi Wisekal, president, Baton Rouge Pride, praised the Cancer Center’s three mobile units, used at screening events across Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, highlighting the ability to reach people within in communities, large and small, urban and rural, and provide free cancer screenings. This commitment to offering necessary care to the LGBTQ+ community, regardless of their circumstances, is nothing short of phenomenal, Bobbi explained.

Mary Bird Perkins will continue its focus on the LGBTQ+ community, as well as other underserved populations. For more information on the Cancer Center’s health equity programs, click here.