Gay doctor leaves New Orleans for L.I. due to anti-LGBT bills

Gay doctor leaves New Orleans for L.I.  due to anti-LGBT bills
Dr. Jake Kleinmahon, left, a New Orleans-based physician, said a growing sentiment sparked by anti-LGBTQ+ bills has led him and his family to leave the state at the end of the month. (Photo courtesy of Jake Kleinmahon)

Dr. Jake Kleinmahon, a New Orleans-based physician who specializes in pediatric heart conditions, said he came back to Louisiana five years ago to help build a specialty program second to none. 

“We really planted our roots in New Orleans because they needed someone to build a heart transplant program,” Kleinmahon, the medical director at Oschner Hospital for Children’s pediatric heart transplant, heart failure and ventricular assist device programs, told Blank Slate Media. 

But a growing sentiment in the state sparked by three bills targeting LGBTQ+ people has led Kleinmahon, his husband and two children to pack their bags for Long Island. 

Kleinmahon, a Westchester native, said he accepted an offer from Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park to join the hospital in a similar role and plans to move by the end of the month. 

“When we moved back down, we knew we were moving to a state that historically has been fairly socially conservative,” Kleinmahon said about returning to the South after working in Colorado. “But New Orleans is an area that accepts all people of all walks of life.”

Earlier this year, Louisiana lawmakers approved anti-LGBTQ bills that included a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, outlining pronoun usage for students and their version of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which restricts discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. 

Louisiana has a Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, who has served since 2016 and is term-limited to the end of this year. Edwards vetoed each of the bills that passed through the state Legislature, but lawmakers overturned the bill banning gender-affirming care for minors. 

Kleinmahon said the bills have created an environment where he and his husband don’t want to live and raise their children in. Kleinmahon is also one of two pulmonary hypertension doctors in the state.

“We’ve poured our hearts into Louisiana,” Kleinmahon said on his family’s efforts to advocate for underserved communities.  

One of just three pediatric doctors with his specialty in the state, he said everyone loses, from Oschner–the only pediatric heart transplant center in Louisiana–its doctors and, more importantly, its patients. Before he arrived, Kleinmahon said complex cases that required heart transplants would be sent out of the state.

“It’s incredibly hard on me and my patients that I try to build strong relationships with when I tell them I have to leave because of the laws that are being passed,” Kleinmahon said. “Seeing their faces and the tears that come out when I tell them I’m leaving, even more so when I tell them why I’m leaving.”

Kleinmahon has said about 50 doctors and medical professionals have had to make similar decisions or are considering them to leave states they feel have discriminatory legislation against them or their family. 

At Cohen’s medical center, Kleinmahon will be the director of pediatric heart transplant, heart failure and ventricular assist devices, starting a heart transplant program as he did in New Orleans. The move also brings him closer to family who reside in the Northeast, he said. 

“We’re incredibly excited to look forward to the future. The team at Northwell has been incredibly supportive and I feel their leadership is exceptional,” Kleinmahon said. “It should be a great partnership to help build this program.”

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