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One Year Later: A Look at McLean’s LGBTQ Mental Health Initiative and its Director, Michael Leslie

May 14, 2015 Print

In October of 2013, Michael Leslie, MD, launched the McLean Hospital Initiative for LGBTQ Mental Health with the following goal: improve the lives of LGBTQ people and families affected by psychiatric illness through clinical care, research, education, and community building, at McLean, throughout Boston, and on a national level.

Shelly Greenfield, MD, MPH and Michael Leslie, MD
Leslie (right) with Shelly Greenfield, MD, MPH, Chief Academic Officer

In service of the clinical objectives of the Initiative, to provide consultation to treatment teams and individual providers, Leslie has led in-service trainings for clinical staff at many of McLean’s adult and adolescent programs, and also advises community providers seeking to connect their patients with appropriate resources.

Through a newly developed relationship between McLean Hospital and Greater Boston PFLAG (the local chapter of an international organization which offers help for LGBTQ youth, their families and communities on the topic of sexual orientation and gender identity), together they have launched a support group for parents and families of McLean-affiliated adolescents.

This fall, the LGBTQ Mental Health Initiative hosted “LGBTQ Youth Day at McLean,” an all-day event which included a keynote speech from Michael Ferrera, executive director of LifeWorks, an LGBTQ youth mentoring organization, and a series of small group workshops led by Ferrera and other LGBTQ youth experts and activists. Leslie is currently working on organizing the next training event, which will likely focus on issues affecting LGBTQ elders.

Along with Christopher Palmer, MD, Leslie is co-author of the “Adult Mental Health” chapter of a forthcoming textbook on LGBTQ healthcare. He also mentors trainees of all disciplines in the area of LGBTQ mental health and has given numerous lectures to psychiatry residents, social work interns, psychology fellows and nursing students.

In collaboration with Social Work Director Kristin Beville, LICSW, MPH, Leslie has trained McLean case managers to sensitively gather critically important data regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, which will contribute to a dataset that could be used to answer fundamental questions about LGBTQ mental health disparities.

Finally, together with his colleagues in the Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Program, Leslie is planning an observational study examining co-occurring mental health issues among lesbian and bisexual women with PTSD.

“I’m so excited about the progress this initiative has made here at McLean,” said Leslie. “What I love about the initiative is that it really grows out of McLean’s tripartite mission of education, research, and clinical care.”

In recognition for his work, Leslie received the Harold Amos Faculty Diversity Award from Harvard Medical School (HMS). The 2014-2015 Howard, Dorsey, Still Lecture and Diversity Awards Ceremony held at HMS in April celebrated the efforts and achievements of those at the School who worked hard to promote diversity in the last year.

Joan Reede, HMS dean for diversity and community partnership, noted that the actions of the award winners echoed the ideals of leadership, creating positive change, and making healthcare and education accessible to all that were characterized by the careers of Edwin Howard, Thomas Dorsey and James Still, the first African-American graduates of Harvard Medical School in the late 19th century. The annual event is named in their honor.

“The McLean Hospital Initiative for LGBTQ Mental Health embodies a vision of engaging the broader community of consumers, patients, activists and providers in a meaningful discussion of LGBTQ mental health disparities and treatment, and thanks to the support of so many here at McLean, we have already been able to achieve so much,” said Leslie. “The next step is going to focus on the research piece of our mission, looking at the data we’re collecting about the people we treat here, while continuing with education and our other goals.”