Just this month, the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine ordered white coat pronoun pins for all of its students. The pronoun pins (which can be purchased here) display “My pronouns are…” and the pronouns they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, or he/him/his.
These efforts were spearheaded by the SOM’s Medical Student Pride Alliance, whose mission is to advocate for the needs of sexual orientation and gender minorities. Although this will benefit everyone, the need to identify pronouns is especially important to members of the transgender community who want to change their pronouns during transition. It will also help in correctly addressing individuals with ambiguous gender, and those are gender nonconforming, genderfluid, or intersex.
They/them/theirs pins were ordered for students as it is the most commonly used pronouns that people choose besides she/her/hers and he/him/his.
Allison Zuckerberg, second year medical student and leader of the SOM’s Medical Student Pride Alliance, says that for LGBTQIA+ populations, “this is only the start.”
“Until asking for pronouns becomes standard practice, these white coat pins will facilitate introducing yourself with pronouns and asking what others use,” said Zuckerberg. “At our SOM, we are taught to ask how our patients prefer to be addressed. I think of these pins like a ‘Hello, my name is…’ sticker. You would respect what people have on their stickers.”
This initiative was made possible by Zuckerberg, the Medical Student Pride Alliance, and through support from the School of Medicine’s Office of Student Affairs and Wellbeing. Zuckerberg also describes Dr. Florian Thomas, the Chair of the Department of Neurology at Hackensack University Medical Center and at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, as fundamental in this movement.
“Displaying a pronoun pin conveys to others that the wearer makes no assumptions about the other person’s gender identity,” explains Dr. Thomas. “And it communicates to members of the LGBTQIA+ community that they have come to a safe environment for their health care.”
In 2021, Zuckerberg and other medical students from her class will start clinical rotations at various Hackensack Meridian Health sites throughout New Jersey. Zuckerberg emphasizes that for this work, it is the responsibility of the majority to lead the change. For many people (but especially for those who are transgender), the only time they may connect with healthcare providers is in the hospital.
“Especially for gender minorities with multiple minority status, this may be the only opportunity for us to establish rapport,” said Zuckerberg.