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Student’s project hopes to shine light on better healthcare for transgender patients

May 10, 2018 - Health + Wellness, LGBT Community - ,
by Doug Hagler  |  photo by Jenn George

Few of us enjoy going the doctor. It’s not that we don’t like our doctors, we respect them and look to them for help. It’s all the surround that’s unpleasant. Most everyone who seeks medical services must deal with scheduling appointments around work, navigating the mystery of insurance coverage, and preparing for the good news/bad news that we may or may not hear. The actual face-to-face time with a medical professional is often pleasant. At least we know we’re going to get competent help most of the time, and our visit may give us hope.

Imagine going to a doctor’s appointment and realizing that the doctor you’re seeing doesn’t know what to do with you. Perhaps your doctor gives you advice that doesn’t square up with the treatment you know you need. You might be confronted (again!) with willful ignorance, inherent bias, or cool hostility. Your visit is one more time when you’re going to have to educate someone who should already be educated. Or maybe all of this is new to you and you’re frightened. You sit in silence, deferring to someone in a position of authority who doesn’t have the knowledge or experience you need for effective treatment.

This is often what transgender folks experience.

Kesley Page can attest: “There’s a lack of sensitivity and knowledge in the medical community. While many mental health needs are being met that hadn’t been met in the past, access to doctors whose practices reflect the standard of care upheld by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health [WPATH] are hard to find. There are times when it can be really frustrating and discouraging.”

Leah Carlisle is wrapping up her clinical doctorate degree in occupational therapy at Belmont University. For her capstone project, Leah focused on the healthcare challenges transgender persons face, and looked to create a resource that would help. Out of her efforts she produced a film entitled Healthcare Fidelity to the Transgender Community.

“After talking to people it became clear that fidelity—loyalty to patients regardless of personal belief—is lacking. I wanted to create something to strengthen that,” Carlisle said.

Leah reached out to the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) for help. Kathy Halbrooks, a member of the coalition, suggested creating a film that TTPC could use as a resource for the coalition’s existing sensitivity training for healthcare providers. Leah worked intensely on the project for four months and eventually brought people together for a panel discussion and filming.

“Participating on the panel and shooting the film at OutCentral was a positive experience,” said Page. “It was an opportunity to make new connections with people and share our concerns with one another for the purpose of education. At the same time, it was emotionally difficult to hear people talk about their negative experiences with healthcare. People aren’t getting the care they need due to a lack of trust, which results in a lack of care.”

Leah hopes that the stories told by real people in the documentary will inspire medical professionals to make healthcare a better experience for their transgender patients.


For more information about the TTPC’s sensitivity training and to view the film, contact Kathy Halbrooks at 615.804.5752 or visit ttgpac.com.

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