SF General Hospital Joins 'It Gets Better' Campaign Supporting LGBT Youth

Video Features Personal Stories from SFGH and UCSF Staff

By Louise Chu

San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (SFGH) has joined the national campaign to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth by releasing its own “It Gets Better” video featuring personal stories by doctors, nurses and staff.

The 11-minute video, spearheaded by SFGH nurse manager Kathryn Fowler, includes messages of encouragement by a number of people. But it’s the testimonies of five hospital staffers — including UCSF’s Lee Rawitscher and Nate Sharon — about their struggles with bullying and rejection when they came out that makes the video uniquely poignant.

“We regularly see teens who have been harmed simply because of who they are, so it was important to send a message that San Francisco General is a safe place where LGBT people will receive quality health care with compassion and respect,” said Fowler.

Rawitscher, MD, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF, talks about his parents sending him to conversion therapy for two years in hopes of turning him straight. Sharon, a third-year UCSF psychiatry resident and a transgender man, recalls being constantly bullied in school, then being kicked out of his home after coming out. Both describe eventually reaching positive turning points in their lives and reconciling with their families.

A partner with UCSF since 1873, SFGH, a pioneer in HIV/AIDS treatment and a leader in providing culturally competent care, is the first hospital in the San Francisco Bay area to make a video for “It Gets Better,” a campaign launched in 2010 in response to several LGBT teen suicides. Since then, thousands of celebrities, elected officials, community groups and others have contributed videos offering hope to young people going through tough times.

Like UCSF Medical Center, SFGH was recently recognized for its LGBT-supportive policies by the Human Rights Campaign’s 2012 Health Care Equality Index. Patients and employees are protected from discrimination, same-sex couples and parents have equal visitation rights and staff are trained on LGBT patient-centered care. 

Sue Currin, MS, RN, chief executive officer of SFGH, kicked off the video with her call out to LGBT young people. “Our mission is to provide quality health care and trauma services with compassion and respect to all patients, including the most vulnerable,” she said. “We were pioneers in providing health care to the gay community during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, and that culture of respect for diversity carries on today for our patients and staff.”