I have been a proud 15-year member of the Alliance, first as a provider and then a supporter of education. I have been surrounded by far brighter and more important people identifying and measuring initiatives that accelerate evidence-based information into practice to elevate outcomes for all patients. I am also a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and recognize that advocating for every person’s dignity is wholly symbiotic to the work each of us aim to achieve.
Long ago, I confidently embraced being a gay man. I was fortunate to have support. I respect, however, that different circumstances have left many with other experiences. I concede that there remains deep individual and professional struggles for acceptance, driven by societal misunderstandings that, unchecked, will affect us all. Misunderstanding and even disagreement with one’s identity are, at times, acceptable. It leads to discourse and education. Refusal to welcome learning or acceptance is what is perilous. If we pause to grip the simplicity of it, when it comes to respecting every person’s right to live, learn and love safely, neutrality should not be an option. Imagine simply respecting and appreciating differences instead of fearing them. Altruism ignites discourse and builds confidence in oneself and each other, which ultimately invites all to meet their full potential selves.
Due not just to the efforts within the LGBTQ+ community, but also their allies, we have seen global progress in the protections against discrimination and criminalization, marriage and family equality, and the allocations of resources for research, healthcare treatment, issues and awareness. Professionally, many organizations have embraced celebrating each of our differences and creating safe space environments for LGBTQ+ people and others. But until all are open to listening and learning from one another, we chance a natural immunity toward others’ needs, and complacency risks progress reversal.
Patients are more likely to trust their clinicians, communicate their needs and adhere to care plans if they feel safe and respected and see themselves in their clinical teams. Without this, we risk continuing to disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ community which directly leads to higher rates of metastatic cancers, disease transmission, mental health disorders and concomitant conditions that increase cost and burden on all.
When each of us — learner and teacher, patient and clinician — operate with dignity and respect, we seed a world where all are contributing. Consider how many potential contributions, competencies, even cures may have been lost because of marginalization. Now imagine a much more comprehensive contribution where more ideas, medicines and technologies are discovered because all are participating and fueled by their full potentials. This is what is possible if we embrace pride in ourselves and others. For my fellow LGBTQ+ family, let others help you rise toward a light of pride and hope. For those who do not identify as LGBTQ+, know your allyship has been greatly appreciated or understand you are welcomed to become an ally today. Believe in your hearts that a more respectful and inclusive world is possible.
John Ruggiero, PhD, MPA, CHCP, has approximately 20 years of experience in U.S. and global healthcare business, education and research. A practiced leader in medical affairs and medical account management, he is driven by analyzing public health trends and integrating medical sociology and health psychology to provide solution-oriented improvement in unwarranted care variations. Doing so, he leverages his studies and experiences in behavioral science, adult-learning, social- and biostatistics to work toward effective outcomes and clinical change.
Currently, Ruggiero works at Daiichi Sankyo as a functional head within medical affairs. Among several functional responsibilities, he specifically also senior directs a Medical Proficiency Acceleration Center over external Independent Medical Education, Health Services Research/Implementation Science, and health improvement projects. Previously, he had a decade-long responsibility serving as a functional lead in the learning & clinical integration group at Genentech, a member of the Roche group. During his tenure there, Ruggiero was awarded as Outstanding Leader of the Year, asked to lead the medical affairs diversity & inclusion core team, awarded for providing the Outstanding Medical Affairs Contribution of the Year, was one of four to receive the American Society for Clinical Oncology’s 2017 Notable Research Award, and was honored with five other colleagues for helping to change U.S. government policy to benefit patients impacted by the U.S. Medicare 14-day Rule Revision.
Since 2006, Ruggiero has simultaneously served as adjunct professor for biostatistics and epidemiology research methods at Drexel University’s College of Health Professions. He continues to be a lecturer and author. In 2014, after joining a writing group challenge, Ruggiero was selected to publish a fictional psychological novel, “Isolated Matters,” for the purpose of donating a majority of the proceeds to various breast and lymphoma/leukemia organizations in honor of his mother, a patient with Leukemia. Ruggiero earned his degrees in social research & statistics, public administration in public health, biostatistics and epidemiological research, and educational leadership from several institutions, including The Catholic University of America and Arizona State University. Ruggiero works in the New York City metropolitan area and resides in Philadelphia and Zurich, Switzerland, which is home to his spouse.