Andrew Ellis: The True Meaning of Allyship in HTM

My name is Andrew Ellis—I’m a 39-year-old cisgender gay white male and an imaging engineer in Phoenix, AZ.

When I started my career in healthcare technology management (HTM) and medical imaging nearly two decades ago, there were so many unknowns. Although I had accepted my sexuality as a gay male in college, I saw very quickly that this was not always accepted. One of my early peers asked me, “You’re not gay, are you?” and that negative phrasing shaped so many years of my career.

Throughout my HTM career, I found allies. Some were people I deeply trusted, while others could tell that I didn’t fit in and were curious. But I was always on guard with my colleagues and scared of being judged. I felt that I had no one in my field that I could relate to. That feeling continued for about 15 years.

In 2019, I stopped hiding my sexual orientation. A switch flipped, and I would no longer be silent about my authentic self. It was important for others to know. At that point, my husband and I were married for nearly four years, even though I told few people in the workplace. My colleagues were mostly supportive, but not everyone was. I learned that education and advocacy were the primary tools that I could use to protect myself and find allyship in others.

My husband and I decided to move from Ohio to Arizona in 2019. I joined Banner Health as an imaging engineer specializing in CT and MRI. At that point, I knew I had to be an advocate in healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community.

Banner offered Team Member Resource Groups (TMRGs), and I quickly became involved. Within eight months, I was a LGBTQ+ Champion for one of the largest medical centers in Arizona. The connection I found in that space was one of the most beautiful experiences in my entire career. Through advocating for something that I believed in and having my employer back that support, I was finally able to start being my authentic self at work. And it was my opportunity to tell my story and pay forward to create a space where other people could find their authentic selves, too.

Earlier this year, and following the downward curve of COVID-19 in Arizona, I decided to take a break and refocus on my own well-being. In my final week, a biomedical imaging supervisor asked me if he could keep the rainbow flag that was at my desk, to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community would be represented. With the flag on his desk, everyone would see an inclusive space in the Biomedical Imaging Shop.

It was that day that I learned and experienced the true meaning of allyship. That moment touched my heart and soul in ways that I never imagined, because that moment was vulnerable and connected. He was willing to speak up for a cause that wasn’t his own because he recognized the importance in building an inclusive workplace.

Through allyship and advocacy, we can shape the future of HTM. When we do that, everyone benefits. When the youth of today can identify with professionals in their fields of interest, our entire community will flourish. When our existing workplace knows they can bring their whole and true selves to their workplace, we will see retention and productivity benefits. When we break down the barriers of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the HTM space, we will create an environment that draws the best talent, new ideas and solutions to problems, along with better connection with providers and patients.

Education is key. Advocacy is key. The potential to build equitable and thriving HTM environments exists if we take action today.

Andrew Ellis is an imaging engineer in Phoenix, AZ.

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