Cooper Center for LGBTQ Health to Open in Collingswood


Dr. Justin Schweitzer, Medical Director for LGBTQ+ Health at Cooper, and physician assistant S. Ryan Kirker, head up the practice, which offers LGBTQ+ affirming care in a walkable, downtown context.

By Matt Skoufalos | May 8, 2024

LGBTQ Healthcare Symbol. Credit: Guanaco, Gustavb. Wikimedia Commons.

For LGBTQ+ patients, finding a gender-affirming primary care practice isn’t just fundamental to establishing a medical home, it can often mean the difference between having better-quality health outcomes, or avoiding care altogether.

In opening its Center for LGBTQ+ Health at Cooper in downtown Collingswood next month, the Cooper University health system hopes to provide a critical, local option for patients to find the right care for their families and for themselves.

Dr. Justin Schweitzer, an osteopathic physician who is the Medical Director for LGBTQ+ Health at Cooper University Health Care, and a Collingswood local, will head up the practice at 17 West Knight Avenue with physician assistant S. Ryan Kirker.

Dr. Schweitzer said that, for patients who have faced some form of health care discrimination, they describe the attention they get within the Center as “life-saving.”

For patients who require gender-affirming care, “it’s about accepting them as who they are, using their chosen name and correct pronouns, and [having] conversations about what your goals of care are, and how to be a happier and healthier person.

“There are happy tears at a lot of our appointments,” he said. “It’s really about listening to patients, accepting who they are, asking them questions, and explaining why.”

The facility includes seven patient rooms and onsite lab services from Labcorp. It also has capacity for growth, which Dr. Schweitzer said could include mental health or plastic surgery services.

The Center itself comprises a network of providers within the Cooper University health system, including medical and non-medical case managers, gender-affirming obstetricians, gynecologists, and speech therapists; and other family medicine colleagues throughout the network.

It also connects with the Cooper Center for Comprehensive Health, which includes free HIV testing, PrEP (pre-exposure prophyliaxis) counseling, and infectious disease management offered in a status-neutral model of care.

“We’re having those conversations with patients to make sure that their healthcare needs are met,” Dr. Schweitzer said. “If something comes back abnormal, we can take action to make sure that it gets managed.”

Additionally, within the context of the broader Cooper University Health System, the Center for LGBTQ Health will help facilitate the medical education of the next generation of physicians in gender-affirming care.

“We’ll have more space for residents and students to shadow us, and see the work that we do when it comes time to practice independently as well,” Dr. Schweitzer said.

Moreover, the Center for LGBTQ Health provides the full spectrum of family medicine that any other general practice would provide, with an added layer of support.

“We can offer both your primary care, and the specialized care that you need,” Kirker said. “People will come in with a child or young adult for LGBTQ-specific care, and find out that we accept whole families.”

“It’s inclusive, not exclusive,” Dr. Schweitzer said. “You don’t have to be LGBTQ+ to come, and we accept all insurances; every Medicare and Medicaid plan in New Jersey.”

Establishing a family practice dedicated to the specific health needs of LGBTQ patients is more than a nicety; it improves the quality of care for patients who may otherwise have negative interactions with the system of care.

There’s a lot of research that shows that patients that have had negative interactions with providers based on who they are avoid healthcare altogether, and that leads to a cascade of health issues down the line,” Kirker said.

“People know that we’re part of the LGBTQ family ourselves, so there’s the familiarity from patients that they can use the words that they know to express themselves,” he said. “You can be yourself.”

The demand for LGBTQ-affirming care in general, and specifically within the greater Philadelphia metro area, already sends patients to Dr. Schweitzer’s Cherry Hill practice from Central Jersey, the shore, and even Delaware. Other specialized clinics in the area, of which there are a scant few, can have long waiting lists.

The specific practice location at 17 West Knight Avenue also has the advantages of onsite parking and proximity to the PATCO Speedline. Relocating to Collingswood will only improve its accessibility in a walkable downtown context, Dr. Schweitzer said.

“Collingswood has long been LGBTQ+ affirming and friendly, and we have patients who travel,” he said. “It speaks to the need for competent care for people who are LGBTQ+-identifying.”

Cooper Care Alliance Collingswood is targeting a June 3 opening at 17 West Knight Avenue in Collingswood, followed by its June 5 fundraising gala, Cooper Proud, at the Collingswood Grand Ballroom.

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