The Fenway Institute is an interdisciplinary center for research, training, education, and policy development, focusing on national and international health issues. Our mission is to ensure access to quality, culturally competent medical and mental health care for traditionally underserved communities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and those affected by HIV/AIDS.
We do this by conducting innovative research and developing education and advocacy programs grounded in the LGBT community. We act as a catalyst for change in the larger community by applying our knowledge broadly. We are motivated by the belief that everyone, everywhere deserves access to high-quality, culturally-competent health care.
The Fenway Institute is built on the experience of Fenway Health, which for more than 40 years has improved the physical and mental health of the local community. The focus is on those who are traditionally underserved: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, women, those living with HIV/AIDS, and people from communities of color. The Fenway Institute expands on the commitment to advance health care policies and practices across the country and around the world.
Founded in 1971, Fenway Health became known for caring for Boston-area gay men and lesbians. It soon became apparent that more research on gay and lesbian health was needed and, in 1980, Dr. Kenneth Mayer started Fenway’s first research and community education programs.
In 1981, the first cases of what has come to be known as AIDS were reported in New York and Los Angeles. Shortly after, doctors at Fenway diagnosed the first AIDS cases in New England and the spread of HIV. Fenway was one of a very few medical organizations leading a community-based response to the epidemic and rapidly moved to the forefront of the battle against HIV/AIDS.
Strengthened by their response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the gay and lesbian community lobbied for expanded health research in other areas. Lesbian health research was initiated in 1988 and has included surveys, clinical studies, and methodological experiments. Fenway staff made significant contributions to the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) landmark study of lesbian health priorities. In 2001, Dr. Judith Bradford, a member of the IOM study panel, joined Fenway as Director of Lesbian Health Research.
Fenway’s Women’s Health Task Force initiated a series of Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Research Forums in 1998, focusing on the latest methods for conducting population-based research with sexual and racial minority women. Attention to transgender health was initiated in 2002 with creation of the Transgender Clinical Care Committee and a review of transgender patients’ clinical and health-related needs.
Fenway has provided continuous leadership in the creation of a national agenda on LGBT health, including work with the US Surgeon General’s Office to ensure the inclusion of sexual minorities in Healthy People 2010 and prominent contributions to the Healthy People 2010 Companion Document on LGBT Health. Fenway hosted the kick-off meeting of what would become The National Coalition for LGBT Health in 2000 and in conjunction with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force produced the first publicly disseminated report on the use of 2000 US Census data from same-sex households.
After a decade of advocacy from The Fenway Institute and our allies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took an important step forward for LGBT health as they unveiled Healthy People 2020 in late 2010. For the first time lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health is recognized and there is clear acknowledgement that LGBT individuals experience health disparities that affect their health status. LGBT health appears as a special topic area among the 42 listed within Healthy People 2020, and transgender people are included in the document. Previous versions of Healthy People referred only to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
The Fenway Institute was founded in 2001 with Doctors Mayer and Bradford as Co-Chairs and quickly grew into one of the preeminent LGBT health and HIV research, education and policy organizations in the world.