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Advancing Transgender Health Care Equity

According to GLAAD, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. Since then, TDOR has become an important tradition, commemorating all the transgender people lost to violence. In the 24 years since TDOR started, we still find the issue prevalent today. As the leading organization for pathologists, the College of American Pathologists is committed to supporting the transgender community by working to address health disparities in medicine, particularly making sure that testing is comprehensive and accurate. 

In October 2023, we held a media briefing covering advancing healthcare equity for transgender and LGBTQ+ communities. Newly-inaugurated CAP President Donald Karcher, MD, FCAP, moderated the conversation featuring CAP members and friends Margaret Compton, MD, FCAP, Kim A. Ely, MD, Angela Lapus, MD, MPH, FCAP and Channyn Lynne Parker, CEO of Brave Space Alliance.

Brave Space Alliance is the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ Center located on the South Side of Chicago, dedicated to creating and providing affirming, culturally competent, for-us by-us resources, programming, and services for LGBTQ+ individuals on the South and West sides of the city.

“In terms of Black Trans people, we’ve seen an overemphasis on HIV/AIDS prevention, which is wonderful. We’ve seen a lot of the lens focus on STIs and STDs, but we don’t see a lot of whole patient perspective,” said Channyn Lynne Parker.

From an inaccurate name or gender on their medical records, hormone-based testing, and how care is provided, all greatly impact patient’s understanding and trust in healthcare. According to a July 2021 scientific statement by the American Heart Association, “there are higher levels of heart disease among transgender and gender diverse people which are linked to the stress of experiencing discrimination and transphobia at personal and societal levels. Poorer health outcomes are also linked to lack of equitable access to care and higher levels of smoking and overweight or obesity.”

When a patient’s medical team, at all levels, approaches care holistically and inclusively—it benefits us all.

“This is our sacred duty as physicians to make sure that we are providing appropriate personalized care of the whole person,” Dr. Compton said. “Transgender people get thyroid nodules, get knee pain, get hypertension, get other medical conditions, so treating the whole person, providing the best healthcare possible is so important.”

To learn more about how you can work to eradicate healthcare disparities among the transgender community, listen to this Out Chicago Radio interview with Dr. Karcher that continues the conversation about transgender health. Pathologists can also take our virtual course Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Needs in Transgender Care (S2275) now through the end of 2023.

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