BCBSM awards $50,000 to new Corktown Health LGBTQIA+ education and training initiative


Patrick Jones


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) awarded $50,000 to support the creation of the Corktown Health Institute, which aims to expand education and training for providers and organizations on LGBTQIA+ affirming care. 

The Institute will act as the “education, policy, and advocacy arm” of Corktown Health Center, the first medical home focused on serving the LGTBQIA+ community in Southeastern Michigan.


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Along with the funding from BCBSM, the Institute is partnering with Wayne State School for Medicine, DMC Foundation, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), and several LGBTQIA+ community centers to expand and promulgate the program. 

According to BCBSM, the Institute’s first actions will include developing online programs on LGBTQIA+ affirming care for physicians and providers offering training and a compiled directory of LGBTQIA+ affirming providers in the state.  

“So many people in practice today had no formal training in this,” said Diane Levine, MD, Vice Chairwomen for Education and Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Wayne State University. “When people practice medicine, the practices age with them. How physicians think is impacted by the reading that they do and their continued education. Many people in practice today have not made [LGBTQIA+ inclusive health care] a focus of their continuing education.”

The Institute’s mission is to provide expanded education to all health care professionals and equip them with the necessary tools and insight to “effectively and compassionately treat all patients in an affirming and inclusive manner,” according to BCBSM

“The Institute’s goal is to bring together medical professionals, researchers, and community members working in areas of LGBTQIA+ health so that we can improve access to affirming care for all Michigan residents,” said Patrick Yankee, Chief Development Officer at Corktown Health, leader of the Institute effort. 

Corktown Health Center currently offers a variety of integrated health services for LGBTQIA+ members who have barriers to care. These services include primary care, behavioral health care, comprehensive HIV care, support for older adults, food assistance, and health insurance navigation. According to UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, as of 2020 roughly 373,000 Michiganders 13 and older identify within the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Often, this community does not seek the health services they need due to feeling unsafe sharing their personal information about their gender or sexual identity with providers, said BCBSM. This can damage the long-term health and wellbeing of this community. 

This education institute aims to change that through comprehensive and inclusive education and awareness. 

“The establishment of Corktown Health Institute is historic for our community in advancing health equity for all and reaching a resilient, connected LGBTQIA+ community,” said Ken Hayward, Vice President and Special Assistant to the President for Community Relations at BCBSM. “This partnership exemplifies the very need to identify the disparities in health and health care in some of our most underrepresented populations, understand what the barriers to care are, and provide actionable solutions through education and dialogue.”