Friday, October 2, 2015

YES Institute at University of Toronto Rotman School of Commerce

Rotman Commerce at University of Toronto is one of the leading business schools in Canada, boasting renowned international faculty, located in the heart of one the most cosmopolitan and multicultural cities in the Northern Hemisphere.

Christopher Morello, a student leader at Rotman and former YES Institute intern, contacted us about presenting to the Rotman Commerce Pride Alliance (RCPA), one of eight student associations at the school. The fortunate timing of our visit to APA Convention in Toronto
 allowed us to present our work and an abridged version of Communication Solutions™ for undergraduate business students. 

At first, we were bemused why YES Institute was needed in Toronto? Canada is long noted for their embrace of different peoples and cultures, passing their gender neutral marriage act nearly a decade ago. Recent population studies also rank Toronto even more ethnically diverse than New York City, proudly bearing the motto, "Diversity Our Strength." 

Rotman Students with Chris Morello on video chat.
Chris responded, "While that's all true, diversity doesn't necessarily mean gleeful co-existence. Half of all residents were born outside Canada, emigrating from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, which largely have very traditional views toward LGBT persons. There is an unspoken tension around these and other cultural flash points. Fighting about 'Us vs. Them' shows up here, too." 

Student feedback included: 
"The YES Institute communication model is useful because it actually creates a result of win/win between two people, especially when they are holding different opinions."  
"This really helped me to resolve the conflict I have with my parents."  
"The YES Institute presentation was actually much more insightful than I thought it would be. It was a good amount of education mixed with learning communication skills. I especially found the business connection at the end to be interesting."  
– Rotman Commerce students
We are thankful to Telus Mobility, a Canadian telco who hosted an RCPA corporate partners introduction with YES Institute prior to the student presentation. 

Inspired by the work of YES Institute? Your tax-deductible contributions make a difference! Donate today.

Written by Joseph Zolobczuk. 

Medical Professionals Seek Continuing Education from YES Institute

Keeping up with the changing patient care currents in medicine, The Joint Commission, one of the leading healthcare accrediting bodies in the US, released a field guide to assist providers in ensuring an equitable care environment for patients impacted by gender and orientation topics. 

Umut Dursun presenting to Jackson Memorial Health Systems Nurses
Healthcare leaders recognize a policy document alone can't truly shift an entire organizational culture. Administrators and continuing education leaders bring in YES Institute to open an authentic dialogue with staff. Providers listen and interact with guest speakers who share about their experiences in health care settings.  

"My partner was admitted for 10 hours of neurosurgery. After 12 hours, waiting for a phone call, I returned to the hospital searching frantically for answers. I was treated like I didn't exist. The first nurse turned and walked away. The second nurse said, grimacing, 'What do you mean by your 'partner'?' After two hours of being ignored by staff, I finally came across a third nurse who took the time to help me find his room. As a nursing professional myself, I hope no one ever has to experience the anguish I did that day."  
– Evan McEwing, RN, BSN, CCRP 
Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, ranked as the #1 eye hospital in the United States, provided an opportunity for 50 of their ambulatory, operating room, and inpatient nursing staff to receive an inservice from YES Institute: 
"Your interactive presentation provided a fascinating review of gender theory and the current medical and public health disparities research on intersex (DSD), transgender and GLB populations. Thank you for addressing our staff on these important topics."  
– Hilda Brito, RN-BC, MSN, Director of Nursing Programs & Staff Development 
Medical residents aren't often provided training on patient care for people dealing with the topics of gender and orientation. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that found overall inadequate medical training regarding gay and transgender patients, even among top medical schools in the US and Canada. 

Medical programs that provide this type of education and experience are shifting the tide of patient-centered care. Larkin Hospital in South Miami invited YES Institute to address their psychiatrists: 
"As far as I know, I've never had a transgender patient. YES Institute was great at shedding some light on how to appropriately interact with people who have already transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning." 
– Larkin Psychiatric Resident 

 "Prior to today, I never considered asking my patients questions about their sexual orientation. I now see how vital it is for our practice."   
– Larkin Psychiatric Resident 
Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly known as Miami Children's, continues to invite YES Institute to present to their nursing staff and psychology interns. Over the years, we've coordinated patient and family support services and educational outreach with Dr. Alejandro Diaz, Pediatric Endocrinology, and Dr. Janet Rosen, Pediatric Psychology & Psychiatry
"While I've served numerous gay and lesbian youth patients, the idea of having a transgender patient was very confronting for me. I was greatly impressed with the transgender young adult speaker. I now feel more comfortable and better equipped to support transgender patients." 
– Nurse's aide at Nicklaus Children's Hospital 
At MDC Medical Campus, professors from the Benjamin Leon School of Nursing often invite YES Institute to address their students before they fully enter their careers. 
"The YES Institute dialogue allowed my students to share personal beliefs and experiences they've never shared openly before." 
– Rafael Alonso, ARNP, FNP-BC, NP-C
Joseph Zolobczuk presenting to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute professionals

If you would like to request a presentation for your social work, nursing or medical staff, please use our Community Dialogue request page or call YES Institute at 305-663-7195 (Weekdays 9am-5pm). 

Inspired by the work of YES Institute? Your tax-deductible contributions make a difference! Donate today.

Written by Joseph Zolobczuk, Umut Dursun, and Evan McEwing

Federal Executives Grapple with New Gender & Orientation Policies in the Workplace

"You know, you're ruining your career."   
"Why is the government wasting their money taking care of those people?" 
"I feel like spitting on you." 
These and other comments were received by federal employees working to abide by new federal workplace policy mandates, including acknowledgment of LGBT Pride Month in June. Government administrators now face diversity and inclusion challenges with the national passage of marriage equality along with high numbers of transgender clients coming forward within particular federal programs.

The South Florida Federal Executive Board, one of 10 intergovernmental executive leadership assemblies established nationwide by John F. Kennedy in 1961, invited YES Institute and Jan Dapprich from the Miami VA Hospital LGBT Program to co-present at their 6th Annual Quad Conference. 

Held at US Southern Command Army Headquarters in Doral, a wide variety of federal administrators and HR leaders from departments such as Customs & Border Protection, Federal Aviation Administration, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Veterans Health Administration, the US Army, and numerous other departments attended our sessions. 

Joseph Zolobczuk, Director of Education & Janet Dapprich, VA Health Education.
Janet Dapprich, MS Ed., Veteran Health Education Coordinator for Miami VA Healthcare System, and outgoing LGBT Special Emphasis Coordinator, shared about her experience spearheading the Miami VA Hospital climate shift over the past three years. 
"Thanks to the training I received from YES Institute's Communication Solutions™, I learned the importance of beginning this initiative as an open dialogue – first and foremost. We assured our people we were not asking them to change their personal values or beliefs. This is a conversation about keeping all our Veterans safe and included." 
– Janet Dapprich, Veteran Health Education Coordinator  
Janet also shared about the startling findings from two recent research studies that showed individuals at VA healthcare centers are being diagnosed with gender dysphoria at five times the rate compared to the general transgender population (Blosnick, et al., 2013) while also receiving increased access to treatment due to the policy changes and patient advocacy efforts in recent years (Kauth, et al., 2014)

The rate of suicide-related events among transgender Veterans is more than 20 times higher than rates for the general VA population (Blosnick, et al., 2013), which has an already increased suicide risk due to post-war trauma and other factors. 

YES Institute speakers shared about the challenges of being federal employees dealing with their social identities in an ambivalent or even stigmatized work environment. 
"One year I put up a poster asking for voluntary donations for an HIV fundraiser at my workplace," shared James Gross, PhD., a former employee with NOAA. The next morning, someone had ripped the poster down. As a gay male who lost my partner to HIV, not only did they tear up the poster, it felt like they also tore up my heart." 
Umut Dursun, MA.
Umut Dursun, MA, shared, "As a US Marine serving under Don't Ask Don't Tell, I was in constant fear of being dishonorably discharged. I loved serving my country. And the irony was I could serve as long as I told a lie about myself every day. I was up for re-enlistment, but instead chose to complete active duty after four years. Inauthenticity wears at you like a cut that won't heal." 
Umut and Jim interacted with attendees about ways to address these topics in the workplace and also how to deal with upset and conflict. "The willingness to open a spontaneous dialogue and allow people to express what they are already thinking and feeling – but don't get to authentically express out loud – can go a long way in readying the workforce to see value in these new policy changes," shared Joseph Zolobczuk, MS Ed., YES Institute Director of Education. 
"Your ability to present in such an interesting way produced one of the most memorable presentations in the conference's history. I personally appreciated how both of you engaged participants in an open dialogue before beginning to educate us," wrote Jacqueline Arroyo, Executive Director of the South Florida Executive Board.
YES Institute has consulted and presented to agencies across four federal branches, including FCI Miami (US Department of Justice), Miami Port CBP Officers (US Department Homeland Security), SAMHSA's TA Network (US Department of Health & Human Services), and several VISN-8 region hospitals (US Veteran's Affairs). 

View a copy of the South Florida Executive Board post-conference letter

To schedule a presentation for your own organization or agency, visit our Community Dialogues webpage or call 305-663-7195 (weekdays 9am-5pm). 

Inspired by the work of YES Institute? Your tax-deductible contributions make a difference! Donate today.

Written by Joseph Zolobczuk and Umut Dursun. 

Rehab Director says YES Institute Inspires Client Recovery

Holistix by the Sea, an in-patient drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Broward County, regularly invites YES Institute speakers to address their clients. 

“We see positive transformations that support them in their sobriety,” says Dr. Alison Tarlow, Clinical Director. “Those that were previously bullied and unable to find their voice, seem to find it. Many of our clients report that they don’t have to feel so different, regardless of their sexuality or other social identity. Slurs and obscenities based on race, gender, and sexual orientation, seem to stop altogether." 

She continues, “Many of our clients come from backgrounds where discussing sexual orientation or gender identity are taboo subjects. After a two-hour dialogue with YES Institute, they gain a much better understanding of what their peers face and are able to better empathize with them. Our community members who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual feel more at ease and are more confident to reach out and find a network that supports them."

Alison concludes, “The monthly visits from YES Institute empower our treatment community to start talking about underlying issues and sharing more authentically about topics they’ve been dealing with. These conversations are invaluable in the education, broad-mindedness, and acceptance of both the self and the other.” 

YES Institute has served Holistix by the Sea since June 2014. 

Inspired by the work of YES Institute? Your tax-deductible contributions make a difference! Donate today.

Unprecedented Training Opportunity with South Florida Behavioral Health Network

The South Florida Behavioral Health Network (SFBHN) oversees funding designated by the State of Florida to help individuals in need of behavioral health care, including teens troubled by alcohol or substance abuse, individuals suffering from mental health disorders, and families in need of support and behavioral health services. 

In June of 2015, over 270 therapists, case managers, licensed professionals and families across Miami-Dade County had the opportunity to participate in 15 different YES Institute community dialogues and continuing education courses. We offered our entire curriculum bilingually, including two Gender Continuum and two Communication Solutions™ courses.

A new expansion grant is extending SFBHN services beyond birth–18 year-olds, up to 21 year-olds and their families. Mental health professionals are noticing an increase in gender and orientation topics as presenting concerns for youth in the system of care, and are eagerly requesting and participating in continuing education sessions with YES Institute: 
Joseph Zolobczuk speaking at SFBHN Gender & Orientation Dialogue.
"Our agency refers a lot of our clients to YES Institute. Our adolescents and their families are very happy with your educational services which readies parents to address underlying concerns with their children." 
– Psychologist, Banyan Health 
"Such a great training. I learned about breaking down what someone said, to really get at what they are saying. I learned the value of staying open minded, knowing the community resources, and how to link clients to them. It's OK to talk about gender and orientation." 
– Psychology student 
"I learned the difference between gender, orientation, and behavior. Many people confuse these all together."  
– Social work student 
Lucy Hernandez, LCSW, speaking with participants at SFBHN.
Four agencies are playing a key role in the new services expansion grant: Citrus Health, Federation of Families Miami-Dade, Institute for Child & Family Health, and Jackson Community Mental Health

We look forward to deepening our consultation and education efforts with all providers so no child or family in Miami has to feel alone, stigmatized, or isolated. 

If you are a provider within the SFBHN network, contact YES Institute today to learn how you can register for upcoming dialogues and courses at 305-663-7195 (weekdays 9am-5pm). 

Inspired by the work of YES Institute? Your tax deductible contributions make a difference. Donate today.

Written by Joseph Zolobczuk and Umut Dursun. 

Sharing Research with Scholars at APA Convention

The American Psychological Association (APA), founded in 1892, is the oldest and largest leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the US. Each year, their annual convention attracts thousands of psychologists, researchers, and graduate students who share knowledge and engage in continuing education presentations. 

In collaboration with graduate counseling students and research faculty from University of Miami, School of Education & Human Development, YES Institute staff have been working on two manuscripts. One paper focuses on attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adults in the workplace, while the other paper focuses on attitudes toward LGBT students in schools. Both of these papers were accepted as poster presentations at the 2015 APA Convention in Toronto, Canada. 
Joseph Zolobczuk, Daniel Sheridan, and Kiet Huynh. 
The first paper, "Discrimination Against LGBT People: Differences Across Human Service Occupations" compares survey responses across four primary groups of professionals: educators, therapists, medical personnel, and nonprofit employees. We found that education professionals were most likely to witness LGBT verbal and physical harassment, felt least prepared to respond or address these topics – yet were most likely to speak up against sexual orientation and gender identity bullying. Mental health professionals were most likely to attend talks on sexual orientation and gender identity and felt most comfortable with transgender individuals. Authors include Kiet D. Huynh, M.A., Daniel J. Sheridan, M.S.Ed., Debbiesiu L. Lee, Ph.D. (University of Miami); Joseph Zolobczuk, M.S.Ed. (YES Institute).

Workplace LGBT research is of growing interest in the US, particularly as this past summer the EEOC has ruled that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal under federal law. Identifying particular human service occupations exhibiting discriminatory LGBT environments will allow researchers and workplace equality advocates to focus on human service occupations most in need of intervention, training, and education on sexual orientation and gender identity topics. 

The second paper, "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity-Based Bullying: Differences Across Levels of Education" compares survey responses across elementary, middle, high school, undergraduate and graduate cohorts of students. Knowledge of potential differences across education levels is important because it can allow researchers, schools, and community agencies to better target students most in need of education on gender and sexual orientation topics as a means of curtailing LGBT harassment, thereby decreasing the detrimental outcomes for LGBT youth within those settings. Authors include Ariel A. Gonzalez, M.A., Daniel J. Sheridan, M.S.Ed., Debbiesiu L. Lee, Ph.D. (University of Miami); Joseph Zolobczuk, M.S.Ed. (YES Institute). 

School bullying in general, and school LGBT-based bullying specifically, remain a persistent problem in US classrooms. Research findings collected by the CDC reveal the mental and physical health impact anti-LGBT bullying has on students

Potential student interns interested in research and community-based service learning can contact YES Institute about available opportunities at 305-663-7195 (weekdays 9am-5pm) or you can fill out an intern application online

Inspired by the work of YES Institute? Your tax deductible contributions make a difference. Donate today.

Written by Joseph Zolobczuk.

In Their Own Voices

YES Institute's signature Communication Solutions™ course attracts people far and wide, and offers unique takeaways to each participant. Elijah, a Miami-Dade County Public School senior, and Susan, a former corporate communications consultant, who is now a mental health student, share their insights.
Martha Fugate, Co-founder of YES Institute (left), interacting with Elijah (center)
and Joseph Zolobczuk, Director of Education (right).

Elijah shares, "I once heard someone say that, 'the first thought that comes to mind is what you have been trained to think. The second thought shows who you really are.' 

I saw this idea in action when I participated in Communications Solutions™. So often as people, we are in 'default mode' – we see someone who is different, not 'like us', and our thoughts and reactions aren't always the nicest. I discovered that I have many  preconceived ideas of how people and the world 'should be'. There is no way of stopping myself from going to that place of judgement. 

And I also learned I can take responsibility for these thoughts and judgements. I can recognize them as automatic 'reactions', not necessarily what I truly or deeply feel for others. Genuine interaction and listening – especially when we disagree with one another – takes effort. But now I have a way to be fully engaged in a conversation. 

I learned my voice does matter. I never felt like it did. YES Institute has already invited me to speak at two courses and a community dialogue. When I did share my story, it felt liberating. There were actually others interested in what I have to say." 

Susan shares, "A few weeks ago I enrolled in Communications Solutions™ for the second time.It had been such a powerful, impactful experience when I participated in the course last year. I wondered what more I could I learn? 

What I discovered this time around was about my own self – and about the vulnerabilities I and others share, regardless of our personal backgrounds. One of the steps of the model requires, 'to be with another authentically'. Sounds simple enough, right? However, it was a deep lesson in knowing to truly be with another, I first need to be in touch with my own feelings and vulnerabilities – my own authentic self. When I can let myself 'be', I find it much easier to let others 'be'. It brought me a sense of peace with myself, and a sense of peace with others.  

Communications Solutions™ offered by YES Institute is something to be experienced. What makes this course so impactful is the courage of the participants to discover their humanity, find their passion, and open up their voices. I'm considering taking the course a third time!" 

If you would like more information about attending the next Communication Solutions™ contact our enrollment team at 305-663-7195 (weekdays 9am-5pm) or visit

Inspired? Many youth and families attend these courses on partial scholarships, which we are able to offer thanks to donors and investors in our work. Your tax-deductible contributions make a difference! Donate today.