Student Health Services’ designation for LGBTQ+ health care practices is the latest recognition of George Mason’s inclusive campus environment


George Mason University’s Student Health Services (SHS) is one of 462 health care facilities to receive the “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” designation from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's 2024 Healthcare Equality Index.   

“Medicine in general has a significant history of systemic inequality, so one of the big focuses of my job is to make sure that we are addressing those inequalities and promoting health equity,” said Megan Symanowitz, SHS’s Access to Research and Inclusive Excellence health equity lead nurse. “SHS is very enthusiastic about supporting our LGBTQ+ students and learning more about how to better serve that population.” 

This year was George Mason’s first time applying for the designation, said Symanowitz. 

Megan Symanowitz. Photo provided.
Megan Symanowitz. Photo provided.

“It's something we've been working on at the clinic for years now in collaboration with the LGBTQ+ Resource Center and George Mason’s School of Nursing. They've really helped us to identify areas where we needed to serve this community better,” said Symanowitz, who is also an alumna of the School of Nursing.  

For example, acknowledging the pronouns and chosen name of every individual is one area where staff received input and made improvements, she said.

“The center guided us in making in our electronic medical health records, so people are able to self-identify their sexuality, and trans or nonbinary statuses if they want,” said Symanowitz. 

“That way from the very first time we interact with a student, we’re addressing them correctly and they're not constantly having to explain themselves.” 

Their team also conducts Safe Zone training, name change clinics, trans health workshops, and provides regular updates on the best health practices for the LGBTQ+ community. 

This designation, which exemplifies how George Mason facilities go above and beyond the average health care practices of LGBTQ+ patient care in higher education, is one of several inclusive recognitions George Mason has received.  

Last year, George Mason was one of 30 universities in the United States and the only Virginia-based institute to be awarded a “best of the best” ranking by Campus Pride.  

George Mason also received a five-star Premiere Campus ranking by the Campus Pride Index, the highest possible ranking, said Josh Kinchen, director of LGBTQ+ Resources Center

According to Forbes Advisor, George Mason is the #1 online LGBTQ+ friendly college of 2024. 

Mary Lucal. Photo provided.
Mary Lucal. Photo provided.

“Student Health Services' recent designation, coupled with Forbes Advisor naming us the top LGBTQ-friendly university, really speaks to the efforts of our faculty, staff, and students in making George Mason a place where everyone can be their authentic selves,” said Mary Lucal, vice president and chief human resources officer at George Mason.

As of August 2023, George Mason is one of 20 Division-I institutions to achieve a score of 100 on the Athletic Equity Index, in part due to efforts of the George Mason Athletics LGBTQ+ Student-Athlete Group. 

“We often collaborate with athletics and offices like the resources center to expand our audience,” said Jake Kornfeld, a senior government international politics major and co-president of Pride Alliance, a registered student organization of George Mason.  

“Our main goal is to provide safe spaces for healing and asking questions,” he said. 

For example, the Pride Alliance organized an event where former Harvard swimmer Schuyler Bailar, the first transgender athlete to compete in on a NCAA Division I men’s team, came to speak at George Mason’s Fairfax Campus.  

“He’s from the [D.C.] area, and he swam at George Mason’s pool as a kid. He shared his story about being a trans athlete. That was something that was really meaningful for a lot of people at George Mason,” said Kornfeld. 

Josh Kinchen. Photo provided.
Josh Kinchen. Photo provided.

Collaborative efforts across different offices, affinity groups, and departments show George Mason’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and to promoting inclusivity and diversity. 

Other resources for the health and safety of the LGBTQ+ community at George Mason include the LGBTQ+ Peer Mentoring Program, LGBTQ+ residential Learning Community, and the Safe Zone+ Workshop Series among others. 

“What we want is for families and students to be able to choose George Mason as a place where they feel that they can be academically successful while also being who they are without fear of violence or discrimination, and thrive in their identity,” said Kinchen.