2017 Prize Winner
Tyler [is] on a dedicated mission to advocate at the national level for critical policies that will improve the lives of others. There are few other people I have ever met who have taken what is a life-changing diagnosis and used it to focus his life work.
Caitlin Wells, Cascade AIDS Project, director of health care operations
Tyler TerMeer didnt see it coming.
The 34-year-old executive director of Cascade AIDS Project began his career in sexual health when he was diagnosed with HIV in 2004. Then a college senior in Ohio, he was balancing his final semester toward his theater degree and a time-consuming on-campus job as production stage manager for Violet, The Musical.
On hearing the life-altering news, TerMeer decided to hand off the stage manager role to his assistant, wished the cast good luck and stepped away.
Now, nearly 14 years later and with an early career packed with HIV advocacy in Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Arizona, TerMeer heads Portlands longstanding HIV prevention nonprofit, which offers compassionate medical care to the LGBTQ-plus community.
Much like the production stage manager he once was, TerMeer, 34, leads a staff of 75 and represents his organization to the greater Portland metro community.
Perhaps most notably, under TerMeers leadership, CAP recently opened Prism Health, an LGBTQ-focused health center and integrated pharmacy on Southeast Belmont Street. With a tumultuous national environment for LGBTQ rights, and decisions in Washington putting future federal funding at risk, TerMeer knew that for CAP to survive it would need new sources of revenue.
Hence, Prism. TerMeer and his board agreed to purchase a building, acquire new staff, and set the vision for Portlands first comprehensive LGBTQ-plus compassionate clinic. Prism aims to eliminate barriers the LGBTQ community faces in health care. Fears of discrimination and judgment are leading reasons our LGBTQ population receives a lack of culturally-affirming treatment from primary care providers. Insensitive pronoun usage or the forced use of a legal name, instead of a chosen one, at a doctors office adds to the challenges an LGBTQ person may encounter at most health centers.
We have folks who identify all over the gender spectrum, TerMeer says. We need systems of care where if a person walks in presenting as a male, and needs a vaginal PAP smear, they arent going to get questions.
Sexually active patientsregardless of orientationshould not, TerMeer says, have to beg for sexual health screenings or ask for information about PREP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, that could prevent the spread of HIV.
TerMeer is polished but warm, fashion-forward but professional. His office on Northwest 5th Avenue in Portland overlooks the MAX tracks, and rainbow flags hang in the windows. His noticeably calm energy suggests he would be as effective counseling someone recently diagnosed as HIV-positive as he is in the boardroom.
TerMeers composure and poisepossibly products of all those hours spent on stagecarry into every corner of his work.
We support people during what feels like the darkest of days, at times, he says. We are committed to advocate for our communities, even when it feels like the rest of the world is against who they are.
Bottom Line for Portland
Under TerMeers leadership, CAPs annual budget has soared from $6 million to $10.5 million, and its staff from 55 to 75. Most notably, he led the opening of a revolutionary LGBTQ-plus health center in Southeast Portland, Prism Health. In 2016, CAP served more than 2,300 clients.
This prize is generously sponsored by Morel Ink.