A leading Louisiana pediatric heart specialist is parting ways with the state, a decision driven by recent laws aiming to curtail rights for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Dr Jake Kleinmahon, the medical director of pediatric heart transplant, heart failure, and ventricular assist device programs at the Ochsner Hospital for Children in New Orleans, is one of the few specialists in this field within the state, according to an interview with WDSU.
The openly gay Doctor disclosed to WDSU that the recent anti-LGBTQ+ laws enacted by the Louisiana Legislature have prompted him to rethink his plans to retire in the state, which he feels is growing increasingly hostile towards LGBTQ+ families like his own.
The state Legislature saw the approval of three anti-LGBTQ+ bills in June. Although all were vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, the Legislature – primarily dominated by Republicans – reversed his veto of one bill last month. Effective January 1, 2024, this law prohibits transition-related healthcare for minors, encompassing puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgeries.
Highlighting the ripple effects of such legislative decisions, Kleinmahon pointed out to WDSU that his departure would create a void in a critical healthcare field. His institution, he noted, is the sole pediatric heart transplant centre in the state.
Emphasising the potential loss of professional talent due to discriminatory laws, he stated, “If these discriminatory laws continue, the state of Louisiana is going to lose talent, they are going to lose skilled professionals, and frankly, I don’t think the state can afford to.”
Kleinmahon, who returned to Louisiana five years ago with the ambition to establish one of the country’s top pediatric heart transplant programs, expressed his reluctance to abandon the successful project. However, prioritising their children’s well-being, Kleinmahon and his husband Tom concluded it was best to leave Louisiana.
He announced that he would be taking up the position of director of pediatric heart transplant, heart failure, and ventricular assist devices at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Long Island, New York. He expressed sadness about leaving behind his home, friends, colleagues, patients, and their families.
Kleinmahon is part of an expanding group of healthcare professionals, parents, educators, and LGBTQ+ advocates opting to leave their home states in response to laws targeting transgender youth, drag performances, and LGBTQ-related discussions in schools, among other concerns.
Instances of these include families in Texas leaving following investigations into parents of transgender minors; educators in Florida resigning due to the “Don’t Say Gay” law; and a school board member in Columbia, Missouri announcing her intention to leave and move due to the state’s anti-LGBTQ+ bills.