Caitlyn Jenner: Docs need more education on transgender issues

Caitlyn Jenner wearing a white one piece outfit
(Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0)

Caitlyn Jenner, probably the world’s most famous transgender person, says doctors need to "do their homework" and educate themselves when interacting with transgender patients.

Although there’s a lot of information on the need to provide healthcare to transgender people, Jenner told STAT that physicians must do their own research to learn more about the health needs of the transgender community. Of particular concern to the transgender community are mental health issues, including the high rate of suicide among teens, she said.

"These kids are emotionally delicate. In some cases, even if you do everything right you can still lose them," Jenner told STAT. Suicide rates in the transgender community are “off the charts,” she said, particularly among teens.

Indeed, suicide is now the second leading cause of death among adolescents ages 15 to 19 (behind only unintentional injuries such as motor vehicle accidents), leading the American Academy of Pediatrics this week to update its guidelines. The pediatrician’s group said transgender identification is among the risk factors for teen suicide and recommends pediatricians routinely ask adolescent patients if they have thoughts of harming themselves, and screen for factors associated with increased risk.

While there are more doctors who specialize in gender dysphoria, the medical profession in general does not understand transgender issues, Jenner told the publication. Doctors aren’t trained in medical school and have to educate themselves. Most are not experienced in working with transgender patients and may find themselves with the first patient they’ve seen who is transgender, she said.

Adequate healthcare is a struggle for transgender people across the globe, according to a recent series of articles on transgender health published in The Lancet. Multiple surveys have found transgender people often face hostility and ignorance in many doctor's offices, as FiercePracticeManagement previously reported. Many transgender patients skip medical care because of poor experiences.

Finding a trained doctor remains a challenge for many in the transgender community, according to a recent NBC News report. It cited the case of Georgia native James Parker Sheffield, who transitioned six years ago and had to travel more than 40 miles to see a doctor trained in transgender health.

"If we're fortunate enough to afford care, we then have to find a physician that is welcoming and understanding of our status as trans," Sheffield told the news outlet. In rural areas, and even some suburban areas, patients may not find such a physician.

- read the Jenner interview
- find the NBC News article