Robert A. Pitts, MD
Robert A. Pitts, MD
Medical Director, HIV Prevention and Pride Center
NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue
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Providing Gender-Affirming Care for All
Dr. Robert Anwar Pitts’ work has run the gamut from A to Z — a Howard Hughes fellowship in Argentina to a Fulbright fellowship in Zimbabwe — but as a biracial gay man, he plays favorites with the alphabet, giving a centrality to marginalized LGBTQ+ patients.
In 2018, he founded what’s now known as NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue’s Pride Health Center, which now cares for nearly 400 LGBTQ+ patients, 20 percent of whom are uninsured, 20 percent of whom speak a primary language other than English, and 80 percent of whom identify as either Black or Latino. In five years of care, none of them have become HIV-positive thanks to a suite of innovative and empathetic approaches, including a clinical trial for long-acting injectable PrEP.
“Essentially what we do is provide gender-affirming equitable care,” Dr. Pitts says. “It doesn’t matter your race, gender, where you’re from, you deserve being treated equitably. That’s what we’re all about. Coming from a multiracial family and being queer has sensitized me to inequalities in healthcare — different populations who have poorer outcomes, not because they’re innately unhealthy but just because those are representations of inequality.”
When the monkeypox (MPX) outbreak struck in the summer of 2022, Dr. Pitts became a national voice on the matter at platforms including Good Morning America and NPR. “As a queer provider,” he says, “I had to stand up and do everything I could do to help my community get through that crisis.”
His intersectional identity has played out in his professional efficiency as well. “Nothing can be accomplished or be sustainable without interdisciplinary teamwork — nursing, admin, finance, pharmacy, environment. Every team member and every staffer is valued,” he explained.
Bellevue’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nate Link was effusive in their praise.
“Through his multilayered efforts, for so many vulnerable New Yorkers, Dr. Pitts was able to minimize the care inequalities that are so often demonstrated during infectious outbreaks,” says Dr. Link.
“It is often said that the job of a leader is taking their group to a new place. Dr. Pitts’ contributions serve as perfect examples of such transformational leadership. The programs have indeed taken us to a new place, providing an immediate and sustainable impact for our patients.”