Why Transgender Health Care Matters

Everyone deserves to have access to quality health care, but transgender patients don’t always have a safe and welcoming space. A new clinic at UChicago Medicine specifically addresses transgender health care.

Often, transgender individuals make appointments with a physician and hope that the doctor is knowledgeable, respectful and experienced in meeting their needs. Yet a 2015 study on the experiences of more than 27,000 transgender people in the U.S. found that one-third of transgender individuals reported being harassed or denied care from a health care professional in the previous year. One-quarter experienced problems with insurance and 23% said they avoided seeing a physician for fear of being mistreated.

A separate survey found that “surprising numbers of clinicians did not feel they were capable of providing transgender care,” according to information from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“Despite the increasing prevalence of people coming out as transgender or gender-expansive, and despite the trend towards greater societal acceptance of non-binary gender identities, transgender patients face significant barriers to accessing basic medical care,” says Catherine Frances Casey, a primary care physician and author of “Providing primary care to transgender patients,” an article published at the National Library of Medicine.

Specialized care for transgender health matters — and finding the right doctor with the right experience is important. That’s why physicians at the University of Chicago Medicine have developed a service-oriented clinic designed specifically to connect transgender and gender-diverse patients with “trans-friendly doctors in different fields of medicine.”

The service is called the Transgender Clinic for Affirmation and Reproductive Equity (CARE), and is run by Iris Romero, M.D., and Andrew Fisher, M.D., two obstetrician-gynecologists at UChicago Medicine. The clinic is located at UChicago Medicine’s main campus.

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Iris Romero, M.D., obstetrician-gynecologist at UChicago Medicine. Photo credit: UChicago Medicine

“The Transgender CARE clinic was created to help break down barriers for trans and gender-diverse individuals and streamline their care,” explains Dr. Fisher. “It provides a safe and supportive clinical pathway for them to receive medically necessary gender-affirming services, while mitigating many of the causes of their healthcare fears such as healthcare staff and providers using the wrong name or pronouns.”

Respected and heard

Transgender CARE is designed to provide a safe and welcoming environment to bridge the health care disparities that transgender patients often face.

It’s also a place where they can safely talk about different medical options available to them — such as hormone therapies, gender affirmation surgeries or starting their own families, according to the UChicago Medicine site.

“If we as healthcare providers fail to acknowledge a person’s basic identity — whether that be race, ethnicity, gender or even a chosen name — and don’t demonstrate an awareness and respect for their individual lived experiences, then we have failed to create an environment of respect and trust. Respect and trust are the foundations of a meaningful shared patient-physician relationship,” says Dr. Fisher.

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Andrew Fisher, M.D., obstetrician-gynecologist at UChicago Medicine. Photo credit: UChicago Medicine

“We know that when we have success in creating this clinical environment, all patients, including trans and gender-diverse individuals, feel comfortable accessing care, and have better overall health outcomes. Because trans and gender diverse people have faced so many harmful healthcare encounters in the past, it becomes even more imperative that we step up and make the intentional effort to create this space for them and set an example for other providers and other institutions,” he says.

One key resource at Transgender CARE is a point-of-contact person for follow-up questions. This dedicated patient representative can also help with any appointment issues a patient might have.

UChicago Medicine’s comprehensive transgender care includes mental and behavioral health services, which can provide education and support to patients — as well as a wide variety of health care options.

Recognized for equity in health care

As a leader in LGBTQ+ health care equity, UChicago Medicine recognizes the value and importance of inclusive policies and staff are trained in LGBTQ+ patient-centered care. This is an ongoing process designed to bridge the gap for all transgender patients.

UChicago Medicine has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader — one of just 496 health care facilities to earn this designation.

“UChicago Medicine has and will always be a thought leader, and a clinical leader, when it comes to the specialized care of LGBTQIA+ individuals,” Dr. Fisher says. “Whether it’s in our clinical programs, advocacy work, research projects, or educational initiatives, we aim to be a place where gender and sexually diverse people are treated as the wonderful and equal people they are, who also happen to have unique lived experiences with occasionally unique medical needs.”

Content brought to you by UChicago Medicine. Learn about UChicago Medicine and Comer Children’s unique approach to caring for women and children. Discover UchicagoMedicine.org.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Chicago Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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