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February 13, 2017

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Being Transgender In Family Medicine



February 13, 2017
teampoint

I am eternally grateful to the Point Foundation as a I write this, with my graduation both from the Point scholarship as well as medical school at Boston University this upcoming May 2017! Having the support of a LGBTQ organization behind me these four years, and also as incredible mentor with Dr. Jennifer Potter at Fenway Health/Harvard Medical School has been truly a gift.

It is exciting to see lots of trans spectrum, gender non-conforming (GNC) and genderqueer people going into medicine. I came out openly at my school as transgender and transitioned during my second year in medical school, and since then have been able to meet a lot of trans individuals either currently in school for a health profession career, or actively on their path to applying.

I am also heartened by the incredible response I got when I openly applied to residencies. For those who may not be familiar with the process, after 4 years of undergrad and 4 years of medical school, you then graduate with a MD and proceed to apply to a residency, which is both a job and a training program that can last anywhere from 3-7 years based on the speciality that you choose. Applying to residency is a little like applying to medical school or college, in that you write a personal essay and have an opportunity to describe more of who you are. For some, including myself, that of course involved coming out, and I was very open on my application about identifying as a transgender (female-to-male or FTM) man.

I am going into family medicine this upcoming June 2017, which a 3-year residency for a speciality and is considered a “primary care” speciality, where practioners are generalists (although can have their individual niches) who can then take care of any patient regardless of age, from birth and childhood (pediatrics), through adulthood and possible pregnancy (obstetrics and gynecology) through older age (geriatrics). Family practioners can take care of any aspect of a patient’s primary care, including prescribing sex hormones, which is a part of transition for some trans and GNC individuals. I chose the speciality because I also feel as though it’s broad mission to “care for everyone” inherently becomes a social justice mission, and I also like the idea that I would be able to give back to my community in this way by prescribing hormones should someone desire that as a part of their transition. (Note: Here I am using the word “desire”, although hormones for many transgender people are an unequivocal need and not a want. Rather, I used that word here to highlight that not all transgender or gender non-conforming people desire hormones, and that transition is an individual process and looks different for every person.)

I was entirely impressed by the way on the family medicine interview trail, every program that I applied to was extremely open and supportive of my desire to work with transgender patients. I applied to close to 10 programs in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, as I am originally from Tucson, Arizona and see myself going back to practice medicine along the Southwest border. I had been open as transgender at a national family medicine conference in the past (more specifically, The Society of Teachers of Family Medicine or STFM, where myself and a colleague presented a transgender curriculum for medical schools and received very enthusiastic feedback from family doctors on a national level. In this way, as well as from the outpouring of support I got from my own medical school’s family medicine department (Boston University School of Medicine Family Medicine Department), I knew that family medicine was a supportive speciality. Nevertheless, I was happily surprised at the universally positive reaction I received from all of my interviewers, and the large amount of interest that family physicians had for caring respectfully and competently for our community.

A question that I often got from family physicians in my interview trail for residency this past winter, was “how can I be more helpful to the transgender and gender non-conforming community?” After getting the question a few different times, the answer that I came up with going along the interview trail was to advertise themselves as a physician who is trans/GNC-friendly and/or a prescriber of hormones. As a transgender person myself, I know that the first thing I do when I move to a new city is I look up the providers who specifically prescribe transgender hormones. The best resource I have always found for this is the local or state transgender community website, as local groups often have a list of a handful (or more!) providers who are not only knowledgeable but respectful and who prescribe hormones to transgender and gender non-conforming patients who desire them. At the end of my interviews, I tried to follow-up with the providers who told me in interviews that they prescribed hormones, and let them know that they should contact the local transgender/gender non-conforming communities via email to add themselves to their safe/hormone provider list. If there is a physician, nurse practioner, physician assistant prescribing pharmacist or psychologist who is reading this article as well, I encourage you to do the same if you also are accepting transgender/GNC patients and would like to advertise yourself as a safe provider!

 

This post was written by Rosen Goertz Point Scholar Jamie Weinand.

Jamie is from Tucson, Arizona and attended Duke University, majoring in Spanish and biology. Jamie now attends Boston University School of Medicine, interested in transgender health advocacy and research as well as pro-bono health care. Read more about Jamie here.



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