Motivated by the belief that healthcare is a right, not a privilege, in 1971, politically active students and community residents opened a one-day-a-week drop-in center in the basement of a building owned by the Christian Science Church. Today,
Fenway Health is a national model in caring for the underserved Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community. Although the definition of underserved frequently focuses on low-income individuals and people of color, in fact, Healthy People 2020 acknowledges the significant burden of health disparities among LGBT people. Fenway Health is a national leader in providing care, and literally wrote the book,
The Fenway Guide to LGBT Health
that has been adopted in more than 100 medical schools across the country.
Because of its commitment to the LGBT community, Fenway was also involved in the HIV/AIDS epidemic from its onset (Fenway physicians actually diagnosed the first case of "GRID: Gay Related Immune Deficiency" in Boston in 1981). Over the years, Fenway has developed extensive expertise in HIV/AIDS care and today has the largest panel of HIV/AIDS patients in New England. Fenway Health is not only involved in treatment though, they are also leaders in prevention and in education efforts with youth through the elderly.
A natural outgrowth of its leadership in the HIV/AIDS arena was the development of Fenway's extensive research enterprise. In 2001, Fenway launched The Fenway Institute, a national interdisciplinary center dedicated to LGBT health through research and education, training and education, and policy and advocacy. The Fenway Institute boasts the most sophisticated research endeavor in any health center nationally with approximately $5 million of NIH-sponsored grants. Their research is conducted throughout the United States but also internationally in India, Japan, Vietnam, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. In 2007, The Fenway Institute was funded by the National Institutes of Health as a Population Research Center on LGBT Health. This was the first time that a community-based organization was designated as one of the "special population" centers and was an acknowledgment by the federal government of LGBT people as a unique population with specific health risks and disparities.