Mazzoni Center Spotlights LGBT Employees for Women’s History Month

Many of you may already be familiar with the Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia’s LGBT health care and wellness center. We at the Mazzoni Center strive to provide quality and comprehensive health and wellness services in an LGBT focused environment, “while preserving the dignity and improving the quality of life of the individuals we serve.”

What some of you may not be aware of, however, is that the Mazzoni Center is a female-led organization – and as such, are in the minority (nationwide, only 15-16 percent of top corporate jobs are held by women, and in the non-profit world the figure is approximately 20 percent).

Executive Director Nurit Shein has been leading the organization since 1995, overseeing all operations and departments in primary health care, mental and behavioral health, and LGBT legal services, as well as HIV/STD testing, food bank and housing subsidies for families and individuals affected by HIV, support groups, outreach and education programs. A native of Israel, Nurit served as a career officer in the Israeli Army, working in intelligence, women’s corps, and as commander of the army’s education corps before retiring as a colonel. Prior to her arrival in Philadelphia she was the director of programs for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center.

While Nurit occupies a very visible role at Mazzoni, we are fortunate to have remarkable group of women working at all levels and departments throughout the organization – so with that in mind, and in honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight a few of the extraordinary women who make our mission come to life everyday.

Heather Doughty, Medical Case Manager

Has been with the Mazzoni Center for 4.5 years

A typical day on the job:

Each day in the life of a medical case manager really varies. First and foremost, I am an advocate for each of the 30 to 40 HIV positive people that I work with. I strive to empower my clients to take control of their own lives and to act as a guide along this journey. The main focus is often on overall health, but with the understanding that physical health is significantly impacted by every other aspect of life, such as housing, nutrition, mental health, employment and access to public benefits. Overall stability in these areas (and many more) are the day to day focus of medical case management, with the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.

What brought you to Mazzoni Center and/or this line of work:

I have always had an interest in working in social services and after college started working as a Case Manager at an emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence. I felt that case management was the right fit for me but had a desire to work within the LGBT community, my community. When a job opened up at Mazzoni Center I knew this was the right move for me. Working for an LGBT agency and with (predominantly) LGBT clients has felt like the right fit for me from the start.

What you like best about your job:

What I like most about my job is forming relationships with my clients. I have learned so much from them over the years and I am often in awe of their incredible resiliency and ability to overcome the most challenging circumstances. Some of them have been living with HIV/AIDS for nearly as long as I have been alive!

Other LGBT community involvement/interests?

I am an advocate for immigration reform, in particular for LGBT immigrants. The issue of equality for LGBT immigrants is very close to my heart because my partner is an immigrant. Unfair immigration laws, as well as our inability to marry because of DOMA, have made a huge impact on both of our lives. We are not alone in this struggle, since there are as many as 40,000 binational couples in the United States. The work done by Immigration Equality is an essential part of this fight for equality since they are the only agency exclusively dedicated to full equality for LGBT and HIV positive immigrants. I would encourage anyone interested in getting involved in this important cause to check out their website at http://immigrationequality.org/.

And also … 

My partner and I are the proud parents of two adorable cats named Puppy and Finnegan, both adopted through the PSPCA.

 

Stephanie Kearse-Gaston, Medical Case Manager
Has been with the Mazzoni Center for 2.5 years

A typical day on the job:

Days, weeks, months, they all vary. I am primarily an Advocate and Team member. When clients come in and need help regaining control of one aspect of their life or another, I’m there to help walk them through the process. I work with my clients to maintain or regain stability over time and encourage independence.

As a Medical Case Manager, a lot of my job revolves around the health needs of my clients. The goal is overall wellness, starting from the idea is that clients are better able to manage their physical health if they have some form of balance across all areas. These include housing, employment, emotional health, personal happiness and satisfaction through hobbies/ interests, etc. It all plays a part, and as a case manager, I try to help clients get those things in sync. In the end, I want my clients to have faith in their ability persevere!  I learn a lot through interacting with my clients – whether it’s a new resource, terminology or sharpening interpersonal skills, I’m ALWAYS learning.

What brought you to Mazzoni Center and/or this line of work:

I have known for a while I wanted to be in the field of Social Work, working to improve quality of life through one-on-one and community engagement. While looking for work, I started volunteering at ActionAids as a Buddy and became even more in tuned with the importance of advocacy. Mazzoni had been on my radar, since I valued the mission and knew through experience the impact Mazzoni’s work had on peoples’ lives, so when a position opened up here it felt like the right move.

What you like best about your job:

My co-workers! We’re all very different in a lot of ways, but we all share this understanding of the day-to-day stresses and rewards of this job. It’s nice to be able to turn to someone and know they understand where you are coming from, or know when you need to talk about something light, just to clear the air for a moment.

Other LGBT community involvement/interests?

I’m a Buddy at ActionAids and try to attend various LGBT events when I can. I’d like to go to grad school in the near future as well.

And also…

My biggest news at the moment is that my partner and I are planning a wedding! We’ve been together almost six years, and will be married in July (fast approaching) so that’s where all my free time goes. Planning a gay wedding is fun – and stressful.  There are so many directions you can go, traditions to choose from (or create), and it truly is a playground. At the end of the day we are celebrating our love, the way we want, without apology and that feels great! It is definitely an exciting journey.

 

Kira Manser, LGBT Health and Capacity Trainer

Has been with the Mazzoni Center for two years

A typical day on the job:

I don’t really have a typical day, which is part of what I love about this job. I train professionals around how to work with folks in the LGBT communities with sensitivity and awareness. In a given day I might build curriculum, stay in contact with people to set up trainings, brainstorm ideas and activities with the education team, and do everything I need to prepare to go work with teachers, police officers, social workers, medical professionals, and young people.

What brought you to Mazzoni Center and/or this line of work:

I was a MSW intern in the Open Door Program last year.  I really wanted that position because I consider myself part of an LGBT community, and working with the diversity of folks who live under that umbrella is very exciting and rewarding for me. I think I was a really good fit with the agency and they allowed me to move into the Education Team, since I’m a double threat (clinician and educator!) after my internship ended.

What you like best about your job:

It’s an awesome position. I am a total education nerd, and this position is everything a nerd could hope for! I get to work with smart, passionate folks on our team, my manager is a great mentor who is helping me expand and deepen my own education practice, and we provide services to a very diverse range of people.

I love working with professionals who are expecting a boring lecture about terminology when they hear we’re doing LGBT training.  Without fail at the end of our workshops we have participants approaching us with delight that they had fun, felt affirmed in their work, and got some great tips about how to create safer spaces for ALL people- including folks in the LGBT community.

Other LGBT community involvement/interests?

I also run a sex education collaborative called ScrewSmart. We are a queer, sex-positive, pleasure based organization that provides active education for adults around all sorts of sexuality topics. I also just completed my third year facilitating a sex education program for medical students called Sexual Health Scholars Program. It is a year-long program that trains future medical providers around a wide variety of sexuality issues, including a lot of LGBT issues.

And also…

I’m working towards my doctorate in Human Sexuality, after Saturday I will hopefully be ABD (all but dissertation). Maybe you’ll be calling me Dr. Manser in a few years! Which is weird…because my mom is Dr. Manser, too!

 

Judy Morrissey, Director of Behavioral Health Services

Has been with Mazzoni Center for ten years

A typical day on the job:   

I manage the clinical and administrative aspects of the mental health and drug and alcohol program. I supervise our staff of therapists and assist them in their role. As we’re committed to providing the best possible service, I am always interested in ways to improve what we do and to develop new programming, such as support groups that address the needs of the community. For example, we’re launching a new support group for family and friends of people affected by drugs and alcohol this spring. We’re also planning a grief and loss support group.

What brought you to Mazzoni and/or this line of work: 

I worked for a LGBTQ organization in Washington, DC and really loved it, so when I returned to Philly, it was a no-brainer to find Mazzoni. It’s so satisfying to feel like I help make a difference in people’s lives – especially in my own community.

What you like best about your job:  

Working with such tremendously talented and passionate people really inspires me to be the best I can be. Witnessing people making positive changes in life is like nothing else.

Other LGBT community involvement/interests? 

I’ve played softball in the City of Brotherly Love league and support various fundraising events throughout the community. I try to patronize LGBTQ owned-businesses as much as possible.

And also…

I really enjoy travel, people watching, and taking in different cultures.  My partner and I try to plan a trip overseas every year.  (Barcelona is a favorite spot, but I also love visiting her home country of Ireland, where we’re headed later this year). My latest project is trying to learn Spanish. I’m a Philly native, so we spend a lot of time with family when we’re not traveling. In our ‘immediate’ family we’ve got two dogs that we love and spoil.

 

Elisabeth Flynn is Senior Communications Manager at Mazzoni Center.  She has worked at writing and public relations for a variety of academic, nonprofit, and arts organizations.  She lives in Havertown, PA with her partner and their daughter. 

 

 

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