“I could not be more excited! Today is a day that is going to be a milestone for the 34,000 transgender people living in Tennessee,” said Jesse Erhrenfeld M.D., Director of the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre Program for LGBTQ Health when I spoke with him on Friday afternoon.
Currently located in at the Vanderbilt Walk-In Clinic in Bellevue and available to the transgender and non-binary populations for appointments on Friday afternoons, the clinic will be moving to a permanent home in the One Hundred Oaks complex by January 2019 under the guidance of Shayne Taylor M.D. and Adam Huggins M.D., Director and Assistant Director accordingly.
They have plans. Big plans…
I asked Dr. Ehrenfeld to clue us all in after I picked my jaw off the floor hearing there were 33,999 more of me out there just in this state:
Julie Chase: So how did you folks get this off the ground?
Ehrenfeld: Two years ago, a group of clinicians at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre started meeting to discuss how we could better organize and coordinate care for out transgender patients. Internists, psychologists, surgeons...all of our clinicians who routinely see these patients but weren’t really organizing for how they were delivering care. So we said to ourselves that there is got to be a better way to do this. How could we create a clinic and a space and an approach that gives us the highest quality of patient-centered care for our transgender patients? That’s what got us to today.
Julie: Was there a specific reason VUMC wanted to do this?
Ehrenfeld: No. The model is not a new one, but there is no other center in the Southeast that has created an organized clinic the way we have started on Friday. Our goal is to provide the highest quality, most patient-centered care for our transgender patients and we think this is an important step in that direction.
Julie: Did VUMC have a model clinic in mind when they began creating the plan?
Ehrenfeld: Not particularly. Practices across the country have different approaches to providing multidisciplinary care and I think this is a step in the direction that many facilities are taking for a variety of patient populations.
Julie: Was there any resistance to this type of clinic that had to be overcome?
Ehrenfeld: No. We have had so much support from the community, from our stakeholders and from the medical centre. It’s just been overwhelming.
Julie: I was there for your presentation last spring. You seem to be a strong advocate for the transgender community. Can you tell us why?
Ehrenfeld: Transgender people, and my transgender patients, all too often are overlooked and cast aside. This is one way we can start to rectify that and ensure that transgender patients have the same equal access to high quality care as everybody else.
Julie: So what can someone expect when they call to make an appointment?
Ehrenfeld: We will get you in and will do a multidisciplinary evaluation to understand your needs as a patient and where you are with your particular health care considerations. We will then make sure that we will have the right specialists giving you the care that you need.
“Multidisciplinary” means bringing in together providers from different specialties. We have primary care physicians, internists, pediatricians, endocrinologists, surgeons, psychologists...We have a whole group of clinicians that are excited and ready to provide coordinated services to transgender patients.
Julie: Psychologists...so this will cover the mental health aspects too?
Ehrenfeld: Yes. We have behavioural health services available through Vanderbilt and we have a couple of key partners that we continue to work with out in the community. Many of our patients travel to Vanderbilt from fairly far distances across the state, and with all the care that we provide, some of the care will happen in other places. For example, if you live in the Knoxville area, there may be services that you will be receiving closer to where you live. That goes for primary care and surgery as well…
Julie: Is the clinic available for non-binary identifying people too?
Ehrenfeld: Absolutely! We welcome and encourage non-binary patients to also come and receive services through the clinic. Our staff has undergone extensive training and they are excited to open our doors today. We are thrilled to be able to make this a part of our clinical portfolio.
Julie: What about minors who identify as transgender or non-binary?
Ehrenfeld: We have a pediatric team that is able to work with minors and their families as they come to the clinic. We are excited to be able to take care of both adults and adolescents.
Julie: Will the clinic be appropriate for anyone considering Hormone Replacement Therapy or Gender Confirmation Surgery?
Ehrenfeld: Absolutely...the clinic will be a great starting point for us to be able to access their unique medical needs and considerations for where they are, and for us to help get them to where they need to be.
Julie: Does VUMC currently perform Gender Confirmation Surgeries and, if not, will they be considering it?
Ehrenfeld: We currently perform some surgical procedures. We have a team of plastic surgeons, urologists and OBGYN’s who have undergone training over the past few months. We expect to be performing all comprehensive Gender Confirmation Surgeries within the next few months...
Ehrenfeld: Yes, months.
I swear that I could see his smile through my phone at that…
You can make an appointment with the clinic by calling 615.538.3668