AANA Resource
  • The Beginnings of the Gay and Lesbian Anesthetists (GALA) Organization

    The Gay and Lesbian Anesthetists (GALA) group had its beginning in a conversation among colleagues more than 25 years ago in Minneapolis, Minn., according to founding member Sandra Kilde, EdD, CRNA (Ret.).  “We held a meeting to talk about getting a group of gay and lesbian people together at the 1995 American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) Annual Meeting. The meeting was held in Minneapolis,” she explained. Gathered on this historic day were AANA 2005-2006 President Brian Thorson, MA, CRNA, APRN; Joy Majors, CRNA; Tom Healy, MA, CRNA; and AANA 1981-1982 President Kilde.  The Annual Meeting is now referred to as the AANA Annual Congress.

    “This was 1995, and there were not any social media platforms back then, so we had to construct a mailing list, but where should we start? Well, each of us made a list of people who were a part of our community and worked to get their mailing addresses and then developed a letter,” explained Kilde. A mass mailing was sent and while we waited on responses, the founding group began to work on what the GALA event would be.  “Sending out a letter such as this was risky; We knew not everyone in our community would appreciate being contacted regarding our event, and that there could be some backlash.  There were and still are many individuals who are not openly gay. And yes, there were individuals who were not pleased about being contacted for our event,” said Kilde.

    “However, there were many others who were happy to see us organize,” Kilde said.  “The first-ever GALA event was a boat ride down the St. Croix River in Minnesota, which took two hours to go four to six miles to a beach where a barbeque was prepared for the inaugural GALA group outing.  There were 75 CRNAs and nurse anesthesia students at the first GALA event.”

    Philanthropy has been a part of GALA from its inception and the organization has donated thousands of dollars. According to the AANA Foundation, GALA has donated more than $100,000 to the Foundation. Furthermore, this includes 80, $1,000 GALA scholarships presented by the Foundation to student recipients. Student scholarships were presented to any student meeting the requirements at the time of the award.  Also, at times the donation to the Foundation was made in the name of someone GALA felt deserved special recognition.

    In 1996, the second GALA event was held in Philadelphia, which was the host city of the AANA
    Annual Meeting that year.  To assist with planning the event, Kilde reached out to then-student, John McFadden, PhD, CRNA. “John suggested we have a dinner at a nice restaurant, and it was a great place. Students were always welcome to our dinners, and they were sponsored by GALA,” she said.

    Until 2019 GALA dinners were organized to coincide with every Congress. We always had assistance from a CRNA who volunteered. Others have now taken over planning events for GALA.

    For more information about GALA and to be added to its mailing list please contact  gala.crna1@gmail.com.