2009 PFIG Recipient Patrick Ahern

Career Administrator

Patrick Ahern
School of Nursing
2011 Graduation Year

Internship:  Human Rights Campaign Foundation in Washington, DC

I am a rising third year Nursing major interning this summer with the Family Project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in Washington, DC. The Human Rights Campaign is the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization. The HRC Foundation Family Project serves as a comprehensive resource for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families. The project provides information on a wide range of issues including adoption, civil unions, custody and visitation, donor insemination, family law, marriage, parenting, schools, senior health and housing, state laws and legislation, straight spouses and transgender issues. In addition to maintaining inclusive and up to date resources for LGBT families in the U.S., the project provides guidance to those that work closely with these families in various fields such as adoption agencies, social workers, and healthcare institutions.

Notes on the first week 

On my first day of work, I attended a new intern orientation, met other interns and staff members, and started training for my new job. After quickly learning my away around the office, various computer programs, and other logistical details, I began to get acclimated to my new role in this inspiring, world-changing non-profit that I am proud to be a part of.

In my first week, I have been attending many meetings, preparing materials for shipment, contacting advisory board members, managing email accounts, and learning more about our work and initiatives. Our first initiative is the Healthcare Equality Index, in which we survey hospitals around the country in order to measure how LGBT-inclusive their policies are (http://www.hrc.org/hei). Our All Children – All Families initiative focuses on promoting policies that welcome LGBT foster and adoptive parents (http://www.hrc.org/acaf). Finally, our Welcoming Schools Guide is a comprehensive guide for creating elementary school environments that support and affirm the children of LGBT families with a focus on family diversity, gender stereotyping and name-calling (http://www.welcomingschools.org/).

I am now getting involved in researching LGBT health issues and resources in depth to include in our next survey and researching hospital policies and preparing the contact list for the 2010 survey. I am also going to be creating and updating presentations as well as many other projects. Beginning in a few weeks, we will also be having educational brown bag lunch seminars focusing on a variety of LGBT issues and information about the non-profit organization. I feel that the work I am involved in is very important and fulfilling as well as extremely relevant to nursing. I expect to grow both personally and professionally this summer by learning how to be a strong advocate for the rights and well-being of others, as I will be throughout my nursing career. Additionally, considering the many recent advances in LGBT equality and that June is LGBT Pride Month, it is an extremely exciting time to be in DC and especially with the Human Rights Campaign! I would like to thank the Parent’s Committee for making this opportunity possible and I look forward to continuing this work and learning more throughout the summer!


With over half of my internship with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation behind me, I have had many interesting experiences and am still busy with several ongoing projects as the Family Project intern. We are continuing to update our target list of hospitals for our 2010 Healthcare Equality Index survey. My role in this has been to reach out to the 200 largest hospitals in the country and to obtain and record contact and policy information. This is an ongoing task that will last throughout the summer. For our All Children – All Families initiative, I have been involved in reviewing and editing training modules and presentations for our Training of Trainers. These materials will be used in the next few months to begin to train a group of trainers, who will then teach adoption agencies about LGBT cultural competency issues. For our Welcoming Schools initiative, I have put together a presentation for our staff and advisory board. While these are a few of the large ongoing projects I am assigned to, I have also had an active role in many other projects and the day-to-day functioning of the Family Project: I continue to monitor emails, handle and keep inventory of publications, ship materials, perform various research, sit in on meetings, coordinate activities and update materials, just to name some of my daily tasks here. I feel that all of these projects are helping to make me well-versed in the detail of the work we are doing as well as familiarizing me with the non-profit business sector.

As an intern, I have had the opportunity to attend “brown bag seminars,” in which various topics including LGBT and non-profit issues are discussed over lunch. So far, I attended HRC 101 (overview of the history and current developments of the HRC), Diversity (discussion with OCA - a national organization dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans in the United States - on the importance of building relationships with allies) and Development (overview of the HRC volunteer and fundraising departments). I look forward to having several more of these educational experiences throughout the rest of the summer.

Additionally, I had the privilege to attend the Campus Progress National Conference in Washington, DC last week. I joined other students at this conference to learn about and discuss important issues such as healthcare, climate change and education. In the morning, I sat in on a healthcare panel and listened to updates about what is happening on the Hill with the healthcare reform debate and then had a general discussion on healthcare with peers. Later in the day, I listened to a panel on Religion and LGBT issues, specifically focused on moving the faith community from tolerance to advocacy on LGBT issues. I also had the honor to hear speakers such as Kathleen Sebelius, Speaker Pelosi and President Bill Clinton.Thus far I have really enjoyed my internship and feel like I am learning so much. It has been great living in DC and getting to know a diverse group of interns. I am looking forward to the opportunities the rest of the summer will bring!

Final Reflections

I can’t believe my internship with the Family Project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation is already over. During the second half of my internship, I continued to make progress on my ongoing tasks for the summer as well as took on new projects. I continued to build the contact list for the Healthcare Equality Index annual survey to hospitals as well as researching policies. I also continued to work on training modules for the All Children – All Families program for adoption agencies. Additionally, I helped with the daily functioning of the Family Project by scheduling meetings, monitoring emails and other various tasks.

We continued to have educational brown bag seminars and a few in particular were very memorable. One was focused on transgender issues and the personal story of the presenter, which was very moving and educational. One was from the Religion and Faith Program and was very interesting, as it examined issues regarding Religion’s impact on the LGBT community.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to do an interview that was put on the HRC website and sent out in an online newsletter. My interview can be found here: http://www.hrc.org/issues/youth_and_campus_activism/13349.htm.

I enjoyed my summer internship with HRC very much and feel like I learned so much valuable information that I can use in my future career. Though my internship was not directly related to my clinical nursing career, I gained so much valuable knowledge and experience that further strengthened my desire to advocate on behalf of LGBT issues, healthcare, children and families through nursing. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do this internship this summer, as the work the HRC Foundation is very important to me and I was proud to have the chance to be a part of it.

I would like to thank the Parent’s Fund for making this opportunity possible.