Jorge Roman came of age in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s. As he struggled with his own identity as a young gay Latino, he was acutely aware of the hardship and stigma endured by those living with HIV and AIDS. Even then he planned a career in the health sciences so he could help others in need. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that after graduating from Penn Nursing his career evolved, positioning him as an expert in HIV medicine for LGBT clients.

Jorge is a Family Nurse Practitioner at OLE Health in Napa, California and the founder of the OLE commUNITY project, an initiative to cultivate a health center more welcoming to the LGBTQ community. In an area so close to San Francisco, it seems perhaps odd that information about HIV Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) wasn’t readily available—but that is exactly what Jorge discovered. “It was then that I decided to get better informed and trained on how to implement PrEP at my health center,” he says. “I took the lead by joining the Napa County HIV Providers Network, training my colleagues at work about HIV prevention, and making myself personally visible as a safe place to go for questions related to HIV prevention, both in our health center and on www.pleasePrEPme.com.”

The OLE commUNITY project grew from there. “While I was developing a reputation as a community expert, harsh feedback from the community indicated that our health center didn’t feel welcoming to LGBTQ clients. In 2016, I brought members of the community together with local social service agencies and passionate staff colleagues and clinic leadership—we created a needs assessment deployed throughout Napa County to get a better understanding of healthcare needs for LGBTQ clients, which led to improved data collection of population demographics. It resulted in improved LGBTQ visibility, culturally appropriate staff trainings, and enhanced service offerings to LGBTQ individuals.” The OLE commUNITY project continues to push for further improved patient services, staff trainings, and partnerships to develop a program that focuses solely on LGBTQ health across the lifetime.

“My goal was always to bring HIV care into primary care,” Jorge says. While the idea is not new, the health center where he worked was using a different model. “As HIV/AIDS is now managed more like a chronic health illness, there is an increased need for individuals specialized within primary care to deliver services—and we need to understand that, as individuals, we are not defined by a single health problem. NP’s can make a real impact in this space because we are trained to be generalists, and we’re trained to meet patients where they are at, empathize around experiences of stigma and trauma, be compassionate, and care.”

Jorge is uniquely suited to his role. In addition to a passion for LGBT health and healthcare, he spent several years between graduating from University of California San Diego with a B.S. in Biology and starting his BSN program at Penn Nursing as a Human Resources Specialist. That experience has helped him become attuned to and balance the needs of sometimes opposing and contradictory goals. “Balancing things like the economic success of an organization with patient safety and satisfaction and personal work-life experiences takes work and practice,” he says.

While he’s very focused on the OLE commUNITY project currently and hopes to always maintain his life as a primary care provider, Jorge hopes to eventually transition into an organization that focuses on LGBTQ patient advocacy and policy at either the municipal, state, or federal level. “It’s critical to prevent the federal government from dismantling protections that have long supported people living with HIV/AIDS—such as the current proposal to end the ‘Protected Class’ status that HIV medications have under Medicare Part D prescription plans. Because so many people receive their HIV/AIDS medications through Part D programs, ending the status would have an enormous impact on this community and public health at large.”

Random fact: Jorge enjoys body art and tattooing. “Currently I am working on an arm sleeve inspired by the symbols of the ancient Maya. My family originated from Guatemala, and my roots stem from this advanced civilization.” Jorge and his husband live in Sonoma, California, and Jorge was awarded the Claire M. Fagin Award for excellence in leadership, May 2011.