By John Wong
Dr. Thomas Yetman delivered babies in Michigan before moving to Seattle in 2006 to work for PacMed. Currently the CEO for Providence Medical Group NW Washington, Tom is passionate about education and supporting LGBTQ students.
When and why did you start donating to the GSBA Scholarship Fund?
PacMed was a Gold Sponsor of GSBA, and I was asked to host a table at the 2007 Taste of GSBA. I was struck by the mission of the Scholarship Fund and moved by the scholars’ stories, and began giving immediately. Education has been such a large part of my life and so essential to my career success. I believe that our community will succeed by helping all of our members to achieve their maximum potential. Helping our youth to complete their education is essential to this work.
Are there any particular scholar stories you found inspirational?
I am totally entranced by the stories of transgender people who I have met and in the media. As hard as it is to be gay or lesbian, I can only imagine the strength required to face the adversity that so many transgender people confront every day. I have so much admiration for those members of our community who have been able to be true to who they are and come out in this way. We have so much to learn from our transgender brothers and sisters.
Do you think LGBTQ students face more challenges to success in school/life than their heterosexual counterparts?
I do think that LGBTQ students face more challenges, because we have to deal with the world’s opinion of who we are and how we love. Being judged by a large portion of society has to affect one’s ability to learn and focus. Some parts of society are so ugly that it feels personal and that has to hurt at times. That is why it is so important to constantly send messages of love and support to our LGBTQ youth. They need to know that their family has their back and will always be there for them.
What would you say to someone is the most compelling reason to give to the GSBA Scholarship Fund?
Because the need is so great. And perhaps we have the chance to supporting the next Maya Angelou, the next Albert Einstein, the future Barack Obama when we support the GSBA Scholarship Fund. Who knows the wonderful things that society has been robbed of by not supporting some students in their educational aspirations? Shame on us if we allow even one person with potential to wither and wilt for lack of education and opportunity.
Why do you continue to donate?
Because the need continues to be there. I will do what I can as long as there is even one LGBTQ student who needs to complete their education.
Your story is one of coming out later in life. You've seen a lot of scholars in their teens and early 20s come out as LGBTQ. What message do you have for them?
Be true to yourself. You are supported by a large crowd of LGBTQ family members who love and support you. Never be afraid of owning your truth. There is great power in your truth. Your honesty and integrity will be a beacon to the world that LGBTQ is only one aspect of who you are. Your success in your career and your relationships will be the sign to the rest of the world that we are to be taken seriously and that our contributions are just as important and valued as any other member of society. When our culture sees people as people and not in terms of “gay” or “straight” we will have arrived at the society that we are meant to have. You are making that day closer by your proud and honest lives.
As a donor and philanthropist, what would you like your legacy to be?
He gave when the need was there. He supported for his family and community by loving and caring for them. He worked hard to be true to who he was and his life enriched those around him. In every way he endeavored to be honest and embraced his truth with vigor and enthusiasm. He made a difference.