One Iowa

LGBTQ Health & Wellness Conference 10th Anniversary

It is incredible what can happen when two or three people come together to identify a need and then ask, “What if?” We did with the late Donna Red Wing in Dr. Salas’s office at Des Moines University approximately ten years ago. The “what if” has resulted in the upcoming 10th Anniversary of the LGBTQ Health and Wellness Conference.

In 2012, Donna Red Wing first arrived in Iowa in her role as Executive Director of One Iowa, and Dr. Salas joined Des Moines University as the Chief Diversity Officer. At the time, Dr. Zinnel was with his current employer, Proteus, Inc. In addition, he was volunteering as the chair of the LGBTQ Health and Wellness Initiative coalition. At a coalition meeting, he first met Donna, and they decided to pull Dr. Salas into the brainstorming regarding the conference.

The reason for starting this conference was to try and get more healthcare providers to be LGBTQ inclusive and improve healthcare access for LGBTQ Iowans. We believe the reasons for needing to start this conference ten years ago are still relevant to the needs of LGBTQ Iowans today, unfortunately. There are many more LGBTQ inclusive healthcare providers, but we need more.

As the founders of this important conference, we have witnessed first-hand what Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Over the ten years of this conference, hundreds of Iowans have attended. It is incredible to think about the conference attendees’ impact, bringing the knowledge they have learned to improve LGBTQ healthcare back to their communities.

We are grateful that One Iowa leadership collaborates with many individuals and organizations to host this important annual conference. All of us must continue to work collectively to change the world. In the specific healthcare field, we must continue to make sure we provide education, awareness, resources, and the skills to treat all individuals with respect, dignity, and compassion.

We are deeply saddened Donna isn’t here today to see one of the many impacts she has made in our community. Even though there is still work to do regarding LGBTQ healthcare in Iowa, it was our honor to have founded this conference with Donna.

Written by Dr. Rich Salas and Dr. Daniel Zinnel