UM-Flint alum working to improve health outcomes for city's marginalized populations

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UM-Flint '22 alum Jude Krajnyák
Through his work at Wellness Services, Jude Krajnyák is making a difference for the Flint community.

Reducing harm, dismantling stigma and improving mental health outcomes for marginalized populations in Flint. It's all in a day's work for one University of Michigan-Flint alum.

Jude Krajnyák, a 2022 UM-Flint graduate with a bachelor's degree in anthropology, works at Wellness Services in Flint, an organization that provides free testing for HIV, hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections. As a prevention specialist, he helps run the organization's Syringe Services Program, which provides harm reduction resources like used syringe disposal and wound care. Krajnyák said meeting with clients is a major component of his position, and the best part of his job. 

"I sincerely cherish the relationships that I have been able to form with the clients who utilize our services," said Krajnyák. 

He also creates and distributes educational content for the organization that focuses on the use of safer sex items like condoms to prevent STIs, LGBTQIA+ awareness and how to administer naloxone,a medication used for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose. Krajnyák said creating educational content plays an important part in harm reduction because it helps to fight stigmas related to STIs, substance abuse, sexuality and gender roles. 

Additionally, it provides him with the opportunity to teach the community more about the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, with which Krajnyák identifies. "Although it's not the role of every queer person to educate others on what it means to be LGBTQ, I feel that my background as a queer, transgender and disabled person enriches my experience with teaching others and continuing to learn more about the populations I work with," he said.

Krajnyák explained that this work is important because he often works with marginalized individuals and connects them to resources that might help improve individual outcomes and help them reach their goals. 

"It's important to me that individuals feel like they can enter our building and receive the same respect as any other person, regardless of their housing status, HIV status, race, gender, sexuality or their physical ability.

Krajnyák said that many LGBTQIA+ individuals face challenges like substance abuse, homelessness, and abuse, and may find it difficult to discuss these sensitive topics with someone who they feel might reject them for their gender or sexuality. However, Krajnyák said he feels privileged to be able to connect with community members on such personal levels. 

"The ability to connect with those clients through our shared experiences as queer people is invaluable and can bring a small sense of peace or security to a person who may be struggling," said Krajnyák. 

He added that working at an organization like Wellness Services is important because he feels that his identity is respected within the workplace, but that it hasn't always been easy.

"I came out differently in different workplaces where I felt like I might not be wholeheartedly accepted by either management or staff, but also sought out people who I felt were safe to disclose my identity," said Krajnyák. 

Krajnyák said that attending UM-Flint and working as a peer educator at the Center for Gender and Sexuality helped prepare him to take on roles like the one he has with Wellness Services. 

"My role with CGS and the support I received there stirred the passion within me to take on a career in LGBTQ and sexual health education," said Krajnyák. "My dedication to serving marginalized folks within my community is what ultimately attracted me to the role and organization that I am currently in." 

Madeline Campbell is the communications specialist for the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].