Transgender individuals are those whose gender identity is different from their biological sex assigned at birth. Transgender persons require the same basic health care that is essential to the well-being of all humans; however, they also have unique needs that arise before they even consider making an appointment. Many transgender individuals have experienced harassment and discrimination, even in their interactions with the health care system. Therefore, many of these patients may delay or avoid seeking preventative care or treatment out of fear. This is a primary reason that all members of the health care team, from the front desk and administrative staff to the providers themselves, must be open, knowledgeable and respectful in their interactions with their patients.
To aide in spreading awareness and understanding of unique transgender health care needs, the DMU Pride Alliance, a student-led organization that focuses on providing support and advocating for LGBTQ health and wellness, partnered with DMU Continuing Medical Education to offer the second annual TransHealth Series. Held April 1-4, the series featured four lunchtime presentations and an evening panel discussion.
Participants included experts in transgender health care in the specialties of mental health, pediatrics, primary care, internal medicine and plastic surgery to discuss a variety of important topics. The series received overwhelming support from the campus community and was made available online to those who could not attend in person. Participants joined the series from across Iowa and seven other states, indicating a need for more widespread educational opportunities.
The five-part series culminated on April 4 with a patient-centered panel discussion titled Stories of Empowerment. The passionate discussion promoted conversation between patients and health care providers, resulting in many tears being shed throughout the evening. Michelle Kell, a panel member that evening, said, “Clinicians don’t need to have all the answers, but I expect you to be kind, listen to my needs and give me the resources I need to be myself.”
A key take-away was that if you don’t know something or aren’t sure how to approach a situation, be honest with your patient and don’t be afraid to just ask. Many transgender individuals feel immense pride in sharing their experience and helping to educate the health care workforce. A recording of the panel discussion can be accessed here.
Students and health care providers alike raved about the series through social media posts and in person.
“I loved learning about both the social perspectives and the actual endocrine physiology of transgender health care.”
“Being transgender is more common than we think. In order to provide a more accepting and safe environment, simply get in the habit of asking every patient (not just ones you assume to be transgender) which pronouns they prefer to use.”
“This is not solely about being sensitive to a potentially vulnerable population; this is simply about providing patient-centered health care.”
If you missed a session of the series, enduring materials recordings are now available on the DMU CME website. DMU students are able to show support of these important health care initiatives by joining the Pride Alliance at no cost. Please contact Tyler.Rutherford@dmu.edu if you are interested in receiving more information.
The third annual TransHealth Series will be held in spring 2020. More information will be published as it becomes available. Be sure to check back and join us for the next installment of the DMU TransHealth Series.