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New Center for Transgender Health underscores the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts at BWFH

At Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council is focused on implementing strategies to achieve greater dignity, respect and representation for all patients and employees. One area the group has been particularly focused on over the past several months is educating staff around the importance of using patients’ proper pronouns.

On the main campus at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a new center—the Center for Transgender Health—has recently brought together a multidisciplinary team that includes plastic surgeons, endocrinologists, dermatologists, laryngology/voice specialists, mental health care providers, urologists, physician assistants and administrators in order offer a full spectrum of world-class surgical and medical treatments in a safe, inclusive setting.

A number of the center’s patients receive their care right here at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. “BWFH is a key part of the Center for Transgender Health’s plan to expand access to multidisciplinary gender-affirming services regionally,” says Clinical Director and Surgical Co-Director Devin O’Brien-Coon, MD, MS. “Building on the excellent work done here in the past, we’re hoping to continue to grow both the volume and breadth of healthcare provided to our transgender and gender diverse patients, delivering both excellent outcomes and an affirming patient experience.”

And while patients who are transgender are certainly not new to BWFH, the founding of the center has underscored the importance of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council’s efforts to provide the best possible experience for this patient population.

“Many transgender patients, and others in the LGBTQ+ community, may have previously had difficult interactions with healthcare providers ranging from invalidation to trauma. We want their experience here to be different,” Lyndsey King, MPH, Administrative Manager for the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, says of the plastic surgery suite at BWFH, which sees transgender men and women for surgical consult and follow-up.

The staff has been specifically trained to always use a patient’s preferred name as indicated on their chart and to introduce themselves with their own pronouns before asking a patient for theirs. Most of the staff even wear their pronouns on their ID badges. “Patients who are transgender come into the hospital for all kinds of services, not just those related to their transition,” explains King. “Anyone can get into a car accident or have a fall and need treatment for a nasal fracture or hand injury, so it’s important that we be considerate of people’s pronouns in all of our clinics, not just our clinics providing gender-affirming care.”

“The use of the proper pronouns and names is very important. It is the person’s identity, full stop,” says Shailesh Agarwal, MD, Associate Surgeon in the Division of Plastic Surgery, who sees patients in clinic who are transgender or gender non-binary and performs gender affirming mastectomy and breast augmentation in the operating room for those who are appropriate candidates. “Both the clinic and the OR staff are excellent because they are enthusiastic to provide care and eager to learn more. Our goal is to provide seamless care for our patients. As we strive to reach our goal consistently, we will identify opportunities to grow together. Our teams are very much aligned with that mindset.”

Similarly, in the urology suite, where transgender patients are seen for surgical consult, follow-up and procedures, the staff has been trained to pay particular attention to their patients’ chart so as to use their preferred name and proper pronouns. “All of our staff pride themselves on the care we provide our patients and the respect they show our patients,” says William Boysen, MD, Associate Surgeon in the Division of Urological Surgery. “Without some training, a staff person might not be aware of a mistake they might make which could have an impact on a patient.”

Dr. Boysen, who’s motivation as a provider is to improve his patients’ quality of life, says it’s exciting to help make gender-affirming services more readily available. “As gender affirming surgery has become more sought-after by patients and covered by insurance, we have seen a growth in interest on the patient side,” he says. “It’s a patient population that’s traditionally been underserved. There has not been appropriate medical or surgical treatment readily available, at least not in an affordable and safe way. I am thrilled to be able to partner with my colleagues to offer a full breadth of service.”

In addition to surgical services, non-surgical and supportive services are also available at BWFH, including mental health care and voice therapy. “BWFH is important as we expand access to gender affirming services and work towards becoming a national leader in this area,” says the Center for Transgender Health’s Program Manager Melissa Noyes. “It’s great to work with such a welcoming and affirming community spread across two campuses.”

To learn more about the Center for Transgender Health, click here.

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