Practitioner of the Year (tie)

Practitioner of the Year (tie)

Mimi Rivard, Equitas Health

In the three years since Mimi Rivard, lead nurse practitioner at Equitas Health, launched the organization’s care practice for patients identifying as trans or gender non-conforming, Equitas has seen more than 300 percent growth in the number of trans clients it serves. 

Her stewardship of the program is why Rivard is the co-winner of this year’s Healthcare Achievement Awards’ Practitioner of the Year honor.

A federally designated “community health center,” Equitas is a nonprofit regional health care system and one of the largest organizations in the country serving the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities. 

Here are Columbus CEO’s Healthcare Achievement Award winners and finalists for 2020. Inspiring stories ahead.

With a background in palliative care and serving the HIV/AIDS community, Rivard developed Equitas’ trans-care program by sitting with members of the community, listening to their needs and then listening some more, she says.

“I tried to engage the community, to just show up and create relationships organically and authentically in hopes of doing a good job,” Rivard says.

“We grew largely through word of mouth. And as I started seeing patients that first summer (of 2016), I ended up quickly going from one or two new patients a week to 10 or 12.”

Since that time, Equitas’ trans health program has grown to serve more than 1,000 patients; 11 additional providers also have been hired and trained.

“We were then really able to hear patients’ stories and what they wanted in terms of care by asking what’s important to you, how do you want to live, how can we help with the symptoms you’re having?” Rivard says. “To apply (that palliative model) to gender dysphoria is really a no-brainer—asking how do I use these tools to live at peace and feel whole. And surprise surprise, people really responded to it.”

Equitas Chief Operating Officer Peggy Anderson says Rivard spearheaded the development of new medical services, such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis medication that prevents HIV transmission), that have been critical to improving health outcomes in the populations that Equitas serves.

“Recognizing the power of word of mouth, she met with community members and young leaders in the prevention movement, and worked to build connections in key neighborhoods and social circles,” Anderson says. “She made herself a regular face at community events and showed herself as someone who cared.

“To this day, Mimi Rivard is a household name among the Columbus LGBTQ community, known as a caring, competent provider who values patient autonomy and promotes patient dignity.”

Rivard says the practice has focused on helping patients overcome classically American medical problems as well.

Of the trans-care patients at Equitas Health, 96 percent now have healthy blood pressure, 80 percent of those with diabetes have controlled their blood sugar levels and of those living with HIV, a staggering 87 percent have achieved viral suppression (when one’s viral load has reached an undetectable level). The national average for HIV patients who’ve reached viral suppression is 49 percent, according to Equitas.

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“We look at health outcomes for trans people and there’s just really not a lot of data. This is probably the most marginalized population in the United States,” Rivard says. “Once people are treated with dignity and respect, and listened to, and seen, they do amazingly well.” 

Mikayla Robinson, a staff member with the Mozaic program and also a client of Rivard’s, says Mimi’s support is vital.

“Mimi Rivard is a life savior and a great provider that goes beyond the general care,” Robinson says. “She was a great addition to my medical team. She has helped me in my HIV care to become adherent and gain greater health.”

Rivard’s drive to help clients improve their overall wellness is a great support, Robinson adds.

“Not only is it the raw love and care during medical appointments, but the push of support to just be your best self, even outside the appointments, (that’s) the most rewarding,” Robinson says. “She is a star and a great honoree for such amazing selfless care and honesty to greater health and life outcomes.”

Lin Rice is a freelance writer.