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Amid Disparities, Two Doctors Explain Efforts To Bring Affirmative Health Care To LGBTQ Iowa

Even as visability and acceptance increases, LGBTQ Iowans continue to face disparities in healthcare access.
Zelda Gardner
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Before the repeal, Arizona was one of at least seven states with curriculum laws around LGBTQ issues.

LGBTQ Iowans make up nearly 4% of the state. Yet, the population—particularly transgender Iowans—face disparities in receiving necessary health care.

Only 40% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning people in Iowa report being out to their personal doctor or healthcare provider. According to a 2018 poll, 38% reported that they needed to see a provider in the past 12 months but could not, or chose not to. When asked why they chose not to see a provider, 35% cited cost, 12% reported previous negative experiences and 7% reported transportation or distance impacting their access.

In this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with two physicians trying to turn this around.

“I feel like one of my main jobs that I can do in those situations is absolutely make sure that that child and my patient knows that I am there for them as their advocate and that I will absolutely honor—as will my team—what they want to be called and what their pronouns are when we talk to them, when we talk about them and when we document in the medical record,” said Dr. Katie Imborek, a family medicine physician at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ LGBTQ Clinic.

Legislature Recap: Advocates saw several anti-LGBTQ proposals introduced in Iowa chambers.

“It is a seemingly small thing I think for us, but it is such a huge thing for these kids and for these people,” she said. “This is the one thing, one of the small things, that they can have some control of — how they wish to be called.”

Dr. Kyle Christiason, a family medicine physician who helped create UnityPoint Cedar Falls’ LGBTQ health program, shares his journey with a child who, in the tenth grade, came out as transgender and they started a process of learning how to be a better physician and father. How simple check-in questions like gender preferred pronouns can make a difference in health outcomes.

“If we don’t honor that, guess how much they care about diabetes control or about taking their medication for cholesterol? If we do not honor that essential self, other things don’t matter,” he said.

Last, Nebbe speaks with Erin Almelien from Washington to hear what it was like preparing for a second child with her wife in small-town Iowa.


  • Dr. Katie Imborek, family medicine physician, University Of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
  • Dr. Kyle Christiason, family medicine physician, UnityPoint Cedar Falls
  • Erin Almelien of Washington
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Zachary Oren Smith is a reporter covering Eastern Iowa