PRIZM News / October 3, 2017 / By Bob Vitale

Transforming Care, sponsored by the Equitas Health Institute, takes place Oct. 19-20 in Columbus.

By Bob Vitale

Far too often, says Dr. Scott Leibowitz, healthcare providers learn about treating transgender patients from transgender patients themselves.

Dr. Scott Leibowitz
Julia Applegate

“Nobody should be in the position of having to educate their own provider,” says Leibowitz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who serves as medical director of behavioral health for the THRIVE program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. THRIVE treats children who are trans*, gender-nonconforming or born with differences/disorders of sex development.

For nearly two years, though, an international organization that issues standards of care for gender- identity disorders has been working to train medical and mental health professionals on the best ways to serve transgender patients.

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The World Professional Association for Transgender Health will bring its Global Education Initiative training to Ohio this month as part of the Transforming Care Conference, scheduled for Oct. 19-20 at Ohio State University’s Fawcett Center in Columbus.

Transforming Care: The LGBTQ & HIV/AIDS Health Equity Conference, Is open to community members, ACTIVists, and health and social services professionals.

Conference sessions are focused on issues of LGBTQ health and well-being: mental and behavioral health, cultural humility, access to care, advocacy and holistic health. The conference is designed not just for health and social services professionals. Activists, academics and community members are invited to attend as well.

“This is the second year of Transforming Care, and this year we have grown to include registrants from 15 states, Canada, Uganda and Botswana,” says Julia Applegate, director of the Equitas Health Institute for LGBTQ Health Equity, which is hosting the event.

Who would benefit from the WPATH training?

“Any individual who serves humans,” Leibowitz says.

The same gaps in society’s understanding of gender nonconformity exist in the medical community as well, according to Leibowitz, and that perpetuates the healthcare disparities that transgender people face. “It’s extremely important for these gaps to be addressed.”

It’s extremely pressing, too, Leibowitz says, because greater transgender visibility has encouraged more trans people to come out and seek transition-related care. He says good care requires coordination among professionals in multiple disciplines; Nationwide Children’s THRIVE program includes urology, endocrinology, gynecology, psychology/psychiatry, genetics, adolescent medicine, pediatric surgery and social work.

WPATH’s training—the sessions in Columbus will be the first in Ohio— includes a foundational track and advanced topics. It covers everything from gender competence to cadaver lab training for surgeons.

Those attending either level of training can take part in the Transforming Care Conference on Thursday, Oct. 19. WPATH training extends beyond the conference dates and is scheduled for Oct. 20-22.

It’s a big addition to the conference, Applegate says.

“There is no better place to receive this kind of training than at a WPATH course,” she says.

According to Leibowitz, gender-competent care involves more than just showing respect to patients whom professionals know are transgender. It also means avoiding gender assumptions until patients share their own gender identity. That will help the hidden population of trans patients feel safe enough to come out, he says.

Leibowitz says he hopes all health professionals will seek out training to become gender competent. Transgender patients shouldn’t have to drive hours to have access to good care, he says.

Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm.

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.