Student Fund Honors Hofkosh

For students in the LGBTQ+ community, the intensity and financial strain of medical education in these uncertain times can come with an additional heavy load, says Elyse Mark, student coordinator for Pitt’s Medical Student Pride Alliance (MSPA).

Some may not yet be “out,” she explains. Some may not have support from their families. “Knowing that at any given time, there may be med students grappling with their gender and sexuality in their personal lives, it’s important to create an environment where students feel safe to be themselves.”Hofkosh

To this end, the Pride Alliance and the School of Medicine created a new fund, a first-of-its-kind endeavor at Pitt to support LGBTQ+ medical students. Awards will be chosen based on students’ financial need, service to diverse communities and contributions to the diversity of the School
of Medicine.

The fund’s namesake, Dena Hofkosh, an MD and MEd, is a beloved faculty member of nearly 40 years who has championed this underserved population. Hofkosh retired in April.

“I’m very happy to have my name associated with this fund, because it’s really all about supporting the students,” Hofkosh says. “I absolutely feel very honored.”

A professor of pediatrics and vice chair of faculty development, Hofkosh played an instrumental role in bringing visibility and lending a voice to the LGBTQ+ community at Pitt Med in a variety of ways, such as developing an LGBTQ+ affinity group at UPMC and assisting fellow faculty and students with writing a more inclusive curriculum.

Hofkosh has long held dear the importance of nurturing physician well-being. After coming out in her 40s, Hofkosh explained in a recent interview for Physician Thrive, a UPMC wellness program, she felt a duty to use her voice.

“I realized I was in a very privileged position to be able to speak out . . . to show people, to set an example, to be a model for the struggling medical students and the struggling residents in this domain,” Hofkosh says.

She began working with her colleagues to create a support network, leading to what is now Pitt and UPMC’s PRIDE Health, an affinity group for LGBTQ+ faculty, staff, students, residents, fellows and providers.

“LGBTQ+ students in any field—not just medicine—can feel quite marginalized,” Hofkosh says.

“These folks are people who have a set of needs that may distinguish them from others, and to provide some funding is a way of providing support for things that they might not otherwise be able to do,” Hofkosh says. For her, it’s a way of saying: “We recognize your particular talent and want to help you move forward.”

To make a gift in support of Pitt Med’s LGBTQ+ community and the Dena Hofkosh, MD, MSPA Support Fund, visit their EngagePitt campaign page.