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Hector Vargas named executive director of Gay and Lesbian Medical Association

A news release from the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association about its new executive director, Hector Vargas. (Back in the late 1980s, Vargas interned as a news reporter at The Miami Herald.)

vargas The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) today announced Hector Vargas, JD, has been named executive director of the organization, the world's largest and oldest association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) healthcare professionals, effective June 2, 2010.

Vargas is currently the Deputy Director of the Education and Public Affairs Department for Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people with HIV.

Rebecca Allison, MD, President of GLMA, said that Vargas’ record of achievement in promoting equality for LGBT individuals and his extensive leadership experience will be a tremendous asset to the organization. “Hector Vargas is a remarkable leader in the LGBT civil rights movement. He is passionate about the need for equality in healthcare for LGBT individuals, and we feel extremely fortunate that he will lead our efforts going forward.”

Vargas joins GLMA at a critical juncture in LGBT health. This year the Institute of Medicine (IOM) launched a historic effort to assess the health of LGBT populations. Additionally, a number of other efforts are underway within our nation’s healthcare system to better address and understand the needs of LGBT patients and healthcare consumers. Mainstream health organizations, hospitals, healthcare systems, health plans, and accrediting bodies are increasingly recognizing the need to address healthcare disparities affecting LGBT populations.

“I’m both honored and excited to join GLMA’s dedicated team of board and staff members who are making a real difference in the lives of LGBT people,” said Vargas. “Health disparities affecting gay and transgender people are significant and well-documented, and discrimination and stigma directed against the LGBT community is the principal source of those health disparities. GLMA – using the voice of science and the strength of its members’ medical expertise – can demonstrate the true costs of discrimination in our society, which currently cause LGBT people to suffer disproportionate rates of depression, anxiety disorders, suicide attempts, and substance abuse, as well as putting them at risk for a whole host of other health risks.”

Vargas has plans to expand the visibility of the organization, as well as to expand the organization’s programming in areas of education and advocacy. Additionally, Vargas will work to strengthen and expand the membership of the organization. “It is important for GLMA to expand our efforts to get LGBT health professionals of all disciplines involved in our efforts. Even though great progress has been made over past decades, discrimination in healthcare settings still remains all too common.”

Before joining Lambda Legal in 2001, Vargas was a state legislative lawyer with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, where he worked with state and local activists and elected officials on legislation to protect LGBT people. Previously, he was an assistant director with the American Bar Association in the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and prior to that, he was a national student organizing director with the National Association for Public Interest Law.

A 1993 graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law, Vargas received a bachelor's degree in political science and Spanish from the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

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