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Circling the Dome
Center for Transgender Health Launches
In an effort to reduce health care disparities and improve the overall health of the transgender community, Johns Hopkins launched the Center for Transgender Health.
The new center will facilitate all facets of transgender-related care for all patients—including children, adolescents, and adults—and it brings together expertise from plastic surgery, mental health, primary care, endocrinology, pediatrics, OB-GYN, social work and case management, among other disciplines, says center clinical director Paula M. Neira.
“We know that the transgender community is a target for intense discrimination and harassment, which impacts patients’ health care,” says Neira, a nurse, lawyer, and former naval officer who is a nationally recognized advocate for LGBTQ equality. “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 care in a supportive and affirming way.”
Transgender children and adolescents, as well as their families, can find “holistic support” at the center, including expertise in mental health, social work and primary medical care, says Neira. Care for young people may include pubertal suppression and hormone therapy, though gender-affirming surgery won’t be offered for patients under 18 years old.
Transgender adults do have the option of gender affirming surgeries, which can include feminizing facial surgery, breast reduction or augmentation, and genital surgery such as phalloplasty or vaginoplasty. For adults, the center also coordinates OB-GYN care, primary medical care, hormonal therapy and mental health care.
Devin O’Brien-Coon, associate professor in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, serves as medical director for the new center, which opened with a “soft launch” this spring, focusing on patients who had previously contacted the department to get information about gender-affirming surgeries and services. The center will open in full force this summer. As it evolves, it will span the entire Johns Hopkins Medicine enterprise, including all affiliate hospitals and outpatient centers, according to Johns Hopkins leaders.
Education and research are critical to the mission of the new center, and will help set it apart as a national leader, says Neira.
“We will help teach the next generation of practitioners in all disciplines about transgender health,” she says. “As far as research goes, it’s been only very recently—within the last six to eight months—that the federal government has prioritized funding for issues related to the care of transgender people. While we know that gender affirmation benefits patients, there are many areas of transgender health where more research is needed. As a leading academic medicine research center, we look to contribute to this growing body of knowledge.”