Dr. Joyce B. Hunter served as HMI’s very first Clinical Director of Social Services, hired by Dr. Emery Hetrick and Dr. Damien Martin in 1980, remaining on with our organization through 1991. During her 10-year tenure at HMI, Dr. Hunter co-developed a counseling program, drop-in center, and outreach project to street and homeless youth. She was one of the founding members of HMI’s Board of Directors and she also co-founded the on-site high school program, Harvey Milk High School. Dr. Hunter has mentored and supported HMI’s leadership since the beginning.
Drs. Emery Hetrick and Damien Martin ensured there would be a community response to the critical needs of LGBTQIA+ young people, while Dr. Joyce Hunter ensured that the community response would be grounded in a practice that is youth-centered, holistic, inclusive, empowering, and loving.
Dr. Hunter saw the strength, beauty and resilience of queer youth, and developed a programmatic and clinical approach that recognizes the impact of oppression and the need for systemic change. She modeled what it means to invest in the wisdom and hope of young people and their need for honest, authentic and brave adult advocates.
Her pioneering clinical work and program development work laid the foundation for subsequent generations of social workers and youth service providers to be able to start queer youth programs across the country, and the ability to choose LGBTQIA+ focused work as a career option.
Dr. Hunter shares a similar narrative with some of HMI’s young women—the child of an unwed Orthodox Jewish mother and an African-American father, she started out as a newborn at a home for unwed mothers on Staten Island, spending much of her childhood in an orphanage, her eighteenth year at a psychiatric hospital, her twenties as a young married mother. She experienced violence and prejudice but never backed down from what would become her life’s work.
After HMI, Dr. Hunter moved onto serve as a Research Scientist at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University and is a member of the Global Community Core. She is also Principal Investigator of the Working It Out Project, a community-based HIV prevention research project for gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents that utilizes an award-winning video and an intervention curriculum. Dr. Hunter co-developed this program with community members, addresses coming out, stigma, development of coping strategies to address stressful life events, and personal identity development.
Dr. Hunter has established herself as a trailblazing activist, co-coordinating the first National Lesbian and Gay March on Washington in 1979. Throughout the years, she has served as the Human Rights Commissioner of NYC, as well as leadership on many Boards. She is an invited member of the HGO/HIV committee at the United Nations where she contributes to policy papers and UN parallel events, presenting on HIV/AIDS and prevention issues. She is also a former member of the Governing Council of the International AIDS Society (IAS), and is a founder of the IAS Women’s Caucus. Dr. Hunter was previously Co-Chair of Global AIDS Action Network (GAAN), and President of the National Lesbian and Gay Health Association and Conference Co-Chair of its annual conferences.
Dr. Hunter continues to travel the world advocating for women’s rights and LGBTQIA+ issues; providing training, publishing articles, and yet always making time to check in with the many young people who benefited from her mentor-ship at HMI. There is a generation of LGBTQIA+ leaders that are here because of her.
In March 2018, HMI established the Dr. Joyce Hunter Living Legacy Fund as a way to truly honor the impact that she has had on queer young people. This fund ensures that Dr. Hunter’s legacy lives on by ensuring young women at HMI continue to have access to safe education, health care, job readiness training, mental health, and a caring and compassionate network of adults to guide them along the way.
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