Conference on transgender health care in Idaho

Posted at 3:23 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 17:23:52-05

MERIDIAN — Physicians from all over the state are learning more accurately what the needs of their transgender patients are.

"First of all, just access to care," said Dr. Kathleen Irwin, "family medicine, transition care, which in a big urban area might be with an endocrinologist, but in a small town it's going to be with your family doctor."

One hurdle that makes the health of transgender people more difficult to assess is the lack of data.

"Even in trying to track things like rates of suicidal thoughts or depression, its hard to track those numbers, we don't know what we don't know," said Irwin.

There are things they do know; like when someone has significant depression or anxiety, the have higher risk for other worse outcomes.

"Certain interventions, like conversion therapy, are known to be dangerous and harmful, that's not a question we know that there are still a lot of things we do not know," said Irwin.

A patient's overall health isn't defined by one isolated area. Physicians are taking a look at all the different areas transgender patients deal with, as they would for any patient.

"There's the mental health side, there's substance use , there's societal, political, all sorts of hazards out there, so it remains a privilege to help patients navigate that," said Dr. Deric Ravsten.

Doctors say it's an important topic, and the research they have shows a strong support system makes a big difference. Something providers at this conference hope to offer as well.

"It's also important for our medical students to understand the difficulties that this population has in the state of Idaho and across the country and know the unique medical challenges they go through and understand them," said Dr. Kevin Wilson, assistant dean for clinical affairs at Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Doctors who attended the conference said a good first step for care is asking a patient their name and pronouns, and how to respectfully address them as this could be a stressor right off the bat.