Under a new executive director, Alaska’s LGBTQ+ health clinic is researching what queer Alaskans need

Man smiles with a beach and green hills in the background.
Tom Pittman starts this month as Identity Alaska’s new executive director. (Photo courtesy of Tom Pittman)

Identity Alaska, which operates the state’s only health clinic centered on the needs of LGBTQ+ people, has a new executive director, Tom Pittman. Identity’s clinic in Anchorage serves patients both in person and statewide through telehealth.

Pittman, who is Łingít and of the T’akdeintaan or Sea Pigeon clan, is a health administrator and has worked in tribal and public health. 

Pittman wants Identity to expand in the coming years. He said this year, they will gather data to help define the healthcare priorities of LGBTQ+ communities in Alaska. 

“I’m a big data guy,” Pittman said. “I appreciate it a lot. I definitely see the shortcomings of data, but it’s also one of the most reliable methods to ensure that you’re making solid decisions.”

Identity’s growth will be shaped with input from communities around the state, but Pittman also identified some likely areas of interest. 

“Really likely, long-term focusses for us are going to be: mental health, growing our services and our programs, ensuring that especially mental health services that are informed by providers that understand the intricacies of queer identities,” Pittman said. “Another big focus of ours is ensuring that Identity is a trusted partner to healthcare institutions throughout the state that they can rely on us to help them serve the patients that they serve.”

LGBTQ+ people may have health care needs that not all providers are trained on, like hormone replacement therapy for gender dysphoria or treatment for preventing HIV transmission. LGBTQ+ people may also need specialized mental health care. 

So, Pittman said Identity partners with organizations to train them on how to better serve people with a wider range of sexual and gender identities and he hopes to expand that work, adding that prioritizing physical and mental health care for the LGBTQ+ community benefits  all Alaskans. 

“Queer people improve every community that they’re in,” Pittman said. “When we are able to grow our roots, and I feel comfortable and present in a community, that community becomes more vibrant. It becomes more fun. It becomes a more equitable, and just a more enjoyable place to live.”

Pittman said Identity’s clinic in Anchorage is “weeks away” from completing construction on its expansion. He said the clinic will more than double in size and that means providers will be able to serve more patients in Anchorage and statewide. 

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Rachel Cassandra covers health and wellness for Alaska Public Media. Reach her at rcassandra@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Rachel here.

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