Leading by Action: Improving Care for Transgender Patients

Reducing health disparities faced by underserved populations has been part of Johns Hopkins’ DNA since its founding in 1876. In support of that mission, Johns Hopkins Medicine established the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health (JHCTH) as one of our interdisciplinary service lines. The center is already provid­ing gender affirming surgical services to transgender adults. When fully open, it will be enterprisewide and provide all fac­ets of transgender-related care for children, adolescents and adults.

The center, under the leadership of Med­ical Director Devin O’Brien-Coon, brings together expertise from plastic surgery, mental health, primary care, endocrinol­ogy, pediatrics, OB-GYN, nursing, social work and case management, among other disciplines, with the goal of improving the health of the transgender community and reducing the health disparities it faces.

Paula Neira-nurse, lawyer and former naval officer who is a nationally recognized advocate for LGBTQ equality and the clinical program director for the center-says, “Real people still face real difficulties when seeking care and that’s something we can change. With this new center, we aim to lead by action: to improve the ability for transgender people to get health care, to provide medically needed care and to offer it in a supportive and affirming way.”

“This flows from who we are,” says James Page, vice president and chief diver­sity officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine. “This is in line with our mission and our work and is just the tip of the iceberg for how we can care for underserved popula­tions.” Page says the center will ultimately span the entire Johns Hopkins Medicine enterprise, including all member organiza­tions and outpatient centers.


Neira says with the opening of the new center, staff members should keep a few things in mind when caring for our transgender patients to ensure we are treating them with the utmost knowledge and respect and providing a welcoming, supportive environment.

1. Support the patient by asking what pronouns—such as she/her, he/his or they/them—are appropriate.

2. Use respectful language such as, “She’s a transgender woman.” Avoid terms like “sex change” or “transgendered.”

3. Always use the name someone uses to call themself. If that name differs from a name on a document or chart, you might want to say, “Could your chart be filed under another name?” or, “What’s the name on your driver’s license?” or, “What’s the name on your insurance card?” It is not respectful to ask a transgender patient whose name does not match the name on their documents, “What is your real name?”

4. When asking questions about a patient’s body or experiences, be sure the questions are relevant to the medical issue at hand, respectful of the individual’s sense of self and clinically appropriate.


1. If you would like more in-depth information or additional staff training, or if you have any questions, please contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at [email protected], or Paula Neira at [email protected].

2. The Center for Transgender Health website serves as a resource for staff members, providers and patients at hopkinsmedicine.org/center_transgender_health/index.html.

3. Proud Partner Training: This new education program creates visible allies and resources for our community members, patients, families and visitors who identify within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities. The systemwide launch will begin by the third quarter of fiscal year 2018.

4. “Transgender Patient Care: Meeting the Patient Where They Are,” a presentation by Paula Neira, is available at bit.ly/2wlrq8E.

5. Find more LGBT resources at Johns Hopkins Medicine at hopkinsmedicine.org/lgbt-resources/.

Paving the Way for Diversity and Inclusion

Read more about the Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council’s annual Diversity Recognition Award recipients.

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