Transgender doctor sheds light on patient experience

Care gaps persist for many transgender patients, especially as few doctors are trained to treat them.

Pennsylvania’s Physician General knows more than most doctors about what it takes to treat transgender patients.

Rachel Levine, M.D., began her transition from male to female after moving to the state in the mid-1990s. At the time, nondiscrimination rules governing healthcare did not extend to gender identity, Levine said at ENDO 2017: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting this past weekend, Medscape Medical News reports.

Doctors who are going to treat trans patients should be trained on the clinical aspects, she said, but the “humanistic side” is equally important. Visiting the doctor can be a stressful experience for transgender patients, FierceHealthcare has previously reported, so doctors must be aware of and practiced in their unique needs.

For example, gender-affirming training that encourages the use of a patient’s preferred name or pronoun can make the trip more welcoming, studies have shown.

RELATED: Care gaps persist for transgender patients

Patients undergoing a gender transition may skip preventative care too, out of fear or because a trained doctor is hard to reach. For instance, trans men who have not had gender reassignment surgeries may miss important gynecological or breast cancer screenings. Doctors trained to treat trans patients are still few and far between, but more and more hospitals are offering procedures that transgender people are seeking.


Protections for transgender individuals have yet to be adopted, Levine noted, and the Trump administration has revoked Title IX protections for trans people. But the transgender community should not be discouraged, she said.

"I'm a very positive and optimistic person, and I think that we will continue to make progress. I'd like to quote my absolute favorite musical and say that 'We can't throw away our shot at this time. History has its eyes on us,’” Levine said, quoting the musical Hamilton.

"I think history is on our side. Fairness, justice and equality are on our side. We have to stay strong and united together."