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Posted June 06, 2022 by Pamela Carlson, BA RN
Traci Kalpac starts out each morning not knowing what the day will bring. As a licensed independent social worker in Summa Health’s Pride Clinic, Traci’s role involves many hats.
Countless individuals in the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) community face the presence of stigma and discrimination in their daily lives. That’s why Traci’s role as a social worker can take on many forms: one day she’s a mentor, broker and community resource, while others she’s a therapist and patient advocate. Yet on other days, she’s all of these things to a patient.
Social workers, just like Traci, play an essential role in the success of our Pride Clinic. They help patients get back up on their feet, while giving them the tools and coping skills to work through any issue that may come their way. They are key allies to ensuring wellness, safety and equality for the LGBTQ+ community — and it’s a challenge Traci is prepared to tackle every day.
“My role at the Pride Clinic pushes me to learn new things every day because I never know what someone’s going to need when they walk through my door,” she said. “As a social worker, I strive to work myself out of a job, and by that I mean my goal is empowerment. I not only want my patients to know where to go and who to safely engage with, but I want them to feel in control and have the confidence and tools to help themselves so they don’t feel like they need me.”
With each new patient, Traci starts off by performing a physical and mental health assessment to better understand the patient’s needs. From there, she offers patients a wide range of services, including:
Traci points to a recent patient she helped get back on his feet. The patient had been ill and missed several weeks of work and was facing a home eviction because he got behind on rent.
Traci’s first priority was connecting the patient with community resources to help resolve his main issue: shelter. She referred him to the nonprofit law firm, Community Legal Aid, to learn about his rights and what an eviction process entails. She also referred him to Summit County Cares, a nonprofit to help people with back rents keep their homes.
From there, she addressed his additional needs. She connected him with local food pantries and also assessed his mental health to refer him for help.
“I dug deeper to find out where the patient was and what his possible needs could be,” she said. “From there, we could get to work solving his problems, and I walked him through how to meet each challenge head on.”
LGBTQ+ Community Outreach
When Traci’s not busy supporting patients, she’s committing her time to community outreach and supporting the LGBTQ+ population as a whole. To her, a big part of her role is getting to know people in the community for patient referrals and resources, but also sharing the specialized services our Pride Clinic offers and how the community can access them.
Each year, she participates in the Akron Pride Festival and other Pride events, and attends health fairs throughout the area. Recently, she was invited to speak at the Ohio Athletic Trainer’s Association on LGBTQ+ participation in athletics; she participated in the Rainbow Run 5K at Kent State University, as well as the school’s LGBTQ+ Community Needs Assessment Project showing of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a movie about a transgender rock singer searching for stardom and love.
“A vital part of my job is to get out there and meet people to find new community resources that can help our patients,” Traci said. “There are so many opportunities to connect with the community and we try to make sure we have representation at as many events as possible.”
Traci has been a part of the Summa Health team for 33 years. As a social worker, she has worked in a variety of departments, from inpatient services and intensive care to surgery to home care and hospice. But to her, the Pride Clinic feels like home and the place she hopes she can make a major impact on an entire community.
“I’ve been a long-time ally of the LGBTQ+ community and I want to step up and give a hand to an underserved population,” she said. “I’ve witnessed firsthand the discrimination and trials that people I care very much about go through on a daily basis and I want to show support for them on a micro level by being a safe person to go to, as well as on a macro level by doing my part in the streets, at the polls and behind the scenes.”
The Summa Health Pride Clinic provides high-quality, compassionate care for all patients, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 234.867.7740.