OutCare: How One Cooke Scholar is Making Sure the LGBTQ+ Community Has Access to Quality Healthcare
Cooke Scholar Dustin Nowaskie, the founder and president of OutCare Health.
We celebrate Pride Month in June – a time to stand in solidarity with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community and acknowledge the impact LGBTQ+ people have had on the world. It’s also a time to celebrate visibility and self-acceptance.
While we have achieved some progress since the 1969 Stonewall uprising, the United States is still lacking in resources and protection for often-marginalized LGBTQ+ people. Those who identify as LGBTQ+ also face a greater risk of violence, bullying, death by suicide, and inadequate healthcare. The fight for liberation and equal rights is happening all the time, not just during Pride Month.
While he was a student at Indiana University School of Medicine, Cooke Alumnus Dustin Nowaskie saw how intolerance and ignorance was a huge obstacle for equitable and competent healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2015, he founded OutCare Health, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve LGBTQ+ healthcare by curating a list of reputable providers, research, training materials, and resources by state. Dustin was a 2004 Young Scholar, a 2009 College Scholar, and a 2014 Graduate Scholar and is also currently a Psychiatry resident at Indiana University School of Medicine. In 2018, the Cooke Foundation recognized him as the Quinn Prize recipient.
Since that milestone, OutCare Health has expanded its team, reach, and initiatives considerably. When Dustin won the Quinn Prize, OutCare Health had 1,000 providers on the OutList, which recognizes LGBTQ+ competent healthcare providers. Now, the list is approaching the 2,500 providers mark and features doctors in 50 different specialties.
“We have providers joining daily now,” Dustin says. “We have providers who are hearing about us organically.”
OutCare Health also shifted its initiatives to meet healthcare needs that stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic, and is proud to have increased the amount of competency trainings it offers. OutCare has also launched the OutTalk webinar series in response to the pandemic.
“COVID set every organization back, but actually, it really pushed us forward with a lot of different initiatives and growth,” Dustin says. “With COVID, a lot of people were embracing a virtual world, the opportunity to meet over Zoom, but also the opportunity to educate virtually.”
OutTalk webinars have covered a wide range of topics and how they uniquely affect the LGBTQ+ community, like intersectionality, domestic violence, and politics. Previous OutTalk recordings can be accessed online here.
“[OutTalks are] really meant to bring everyone together. How can we put our minds together in a meaningful way,” Dustin says. “We invite our partners, collaborators, patients, just people in the community who want to know more.”
The OutCare website also has expanded its list of public health resources for the LGBTQ+ community to include all 50 states. The list includes directories for mental health resources, shelters, support groups, and more.
While the last few years have been transformative for OutCare, Dustin and his rapidly growing team know that there is still much work to be done before everyone has access to competent and equitable healthcare. His vision for the nonprofit is to be a curated resource that other organizations can use to move away from segregating healthcare for LGBTQ+ patients. The current model often means LGBTQ+ resources are found in a separate building off to the side, making it extraordinarily difficult for an already segregated community to find quality healthcare.
“I want to focus on OutCare creating a social shift,” Dustin says. “The population absolutely needs very specialized care. We want to bring it in very mainstream ways.”