GALA Mixer and Meet & Greet To Raise Scholarship Funds
The Gay and Lesbian Anesthetists (GALA) Mixer/Meet and Greet will take place on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, at the Siena Tavern, 51 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, Ill. from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The staff from the AANA Congress Dailies spoke with GALA co-founder and former AANA President Brian Thorson, MA, CRNA; and GALA organizer Jeffrey Macuja, DNP, CRNA, for more information about this event.
Congress Daily: This is the first time that the Gay and Lesbian Anesthetists (GALA) Mixer/Meet and Greet is being promoted, at least through AANA channels. What made you decide to promote this event a little more this year?
Brian Thorson: The answer is multifaceted. A lot has changed for gay and lesbian CRNAs since GALA was formed in 1995. In the past 24 years, we have witnessed significantly greater acceptance both in our personal and professional lives. When GALA was first formed, CRNAs or SRNAs who were gay and lesbian feared the loss of friendships and potentially their financial wellbeing if their sexual orientation were to be known.
Today, even though there is still some fear for their well-being, most gay and lesbians feel comfortable being “out." Since 1995, we have witnessed several openly gay and lesbian members serve the nurse anesthesia profession by being appointed to committees, elected to the AANA Board of Directors, and some have even held the highest office of AANA President. We are fortunate that AANA staff have been absolutely fantastic in their support of GALA members serving their profession.
In 2014, AANA President Dennis Bless, a GALA member, had “Diversity and Inclusion” as one of his agenda items. Since that time, lectures related to diversity and inclusion have been a mainstay at our Congress. Recently, the AANA Congress has been host to the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Black and White gala affair, which welcomes everyone, not just those who are Black or White. GALA is following suit by doing the same. By promoting the event through the AANA, it is our hope that a greater number of LGBTQ CRNAs/SRNAs and allies will join us to network, socialize and raise money for the AANA Foundation in support of gay and lesbian SRNA student scholarships.
Congress Daily: Is there a theme or a dress code?
Thorson: Most attendees for the AANA Congress dress in business attire. Therefore, most attendees at the GALA Mixer also will be in business casual attire.
Jeffrey Macuja: There is no official dress code for the GALA mixer/meet and greet. We want you to be comfortable and enjoy the event.
Congress Daily: The mixer will be held at the Siena Tavern (51 W. Kinzie Street) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 11. Tell us about the venue and what people can expect - Food? Drink? Entertainment? Dancing? Fundraising?
Thorson: Finding a time during our very busy schedules at the AANA Congress is difficult. Many have asked that the GALA event not conflict with the AANA Foundation event. Having a mixer prior to the Foundation event will allow you to attend both occasions if you desire. We will have heavy appetizers and drinks as you socialize. At the same time, proceeds from the event will raise money in support of the AANA Foundation GALA Scholarships. We will be the only guests at the Siena Tavern during these two hours. It is our hope you will join us to make it a huge success.
Congress Daily: If someone hasn't purchased a ticket yet, are they still able to do so on site? If so, how?
Thorson: Yes, it is possible to attend the event if you have not registered in advance. We just ask that you pay at the door in support of GALA and our scholarships through the AANA Foundation. There will be a $25 additional fee for members who pay at the door. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to RSVP ahead of time. (Send an email to: email@example.com)
Congress Daily: Are straight anesthetists permitted to come to the Mixer and celebrate with their gay and lesbian colleagues?
Thorson: Yes, we welcome our straight allies to this event to support the mission and vision of GALA. The support that LGBTQ CRNAs and SRNAs now enjoy is due in part to our straight allies. Please join us.
Congress Daily: Can you tell us a little bit about the Gay and Lesbian Anesthetists (GALA) - what is the mission of the organization? How does someone join (is there a formal membership)? Any information you can provide about the group for someone seeking to join or become involved would be appreciated.
Thorson: GALA was formed in 1995 by three individuals: Dr. Sandra Kilde, AANA President, 1981-82; Tom Healy, AANA Vice President, 1987-88; and me, Brian Thorson, AANA President, 2005-06. The purpose of GALA is to provide a safe venue for Gay and Lesbian CRNAs and SRNAs to network and socialize with others at our annual AANA Meeting/Congress.
Early on, attendees decided to use our annual social event as a way to raise money for gay and lesbian student scholarships, through the AANA Foundation. To date, nearly $100,000 has been raised at our annual event in support of students. This year alone, seven $1,000 scholarships will be awarded at the AANA Congress. At this time, we do not have a formal membership process to belong to GALA, but that may be explored in the near future. Several have asked that we explore sponsoring SRNA/s to attend the AANA Mid-Year Assembly.
This year is what we are calling a year of transition. For the past 24 years, Sandra Kilde and Joy Majors arranged a wonderful dinner open only to the gay and lesbian members we had contact information for. This year, we are promoting it more broadly through the AANA and having a mixer versus a sit-down dinner. Also this year, the AANA website has a link to GALA in the diversity section and an email address for those wishing more information about GALA. Please join us.
Macuja: For more information about upcoming GALA events or if you would like to be involved with GALA, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Details of the event also can be found on the AANA Meetings app.
Congress Daily: Is there anything else you would like the AANA members to know about the Mixer or GALA itself?
Macuja: We want members who identify with the LGTBQ community to know that there is a safe, loving, and accepting group for them within GALA and the nurse anesthesia profession. We want to provide more visibility and come together to celebrate our personal and professional pride. You can absolutely live a full, productive, and meaningful life while being authentic to who you are. GALA proudly represents the nurse anesthesia profession and we look forward to accomplishing more great things.