Transgender and nonbinary Oregonians have better access to gender-affirming health care at Oregon Health & Science University and beyond, thanks to ongoing improvements and growth at the OHSU Transgender Health Program.
OHSU’s recent efforts include adding more staff members, creating a virtual consultation service for patients outside the Portland area, and helping health care workers statewide better serve transgender and gender-diverse patients.
The OHSU Transgender Health Program launched in 2015 to ensure patients receive respectful and quality health care, regardless of their gender identity. Caring for more than 6,000 adult and youth transgender patients, OHSU has one of the largest and most comprehensive transgender health programs in the U.S.
“We are excited to introduce this next phase of expansion for the Transgender Health Program at OHSU,” said Gina Hawley, Dr.PH, M.H.A., vice president of professional and support services at OHSU. “OHSU is proud to serve transgender individuals in Oregon and beyond. Even during unprecedented times and ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing our infrastructure and support showcases our commitment to provide quality and compassionate care to our transgender communities.”
To help lead this growth, Aedan Coffey, M.P.H., became the program’s first-ever director in December 2021. As the program’s administrator, he provides strategic and business leadership to ensure the program has the resources to continue providing gender-affirming care far into the future. Coffey is focused on helping underserved communities receive the health care they need. At the same time, Amy Penkin, M.S.W., LCSW, who has been with the program since 2015, is continuing to oversee its clinical direction under a new title, clinical program manager.
Others who joined OHSU’s gender-affirming health care efforts within the last year include:
- Blair Peters, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine after completing a gender-affirming surgical fellowship at OHSU. Peters offers the full range of facial, chest and genital surgery. Plastic surgeon
- Charlene Lai, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics (endocrinology) in the OHSU School of Medicine. Lai is part of the OHSU Doernbecher Gender Services team that offers puberty-related care for youth and adolescents. Pediatric endocrinologist
- Stephanie Tarlow, PA-C, CDES, an instructor in pediatrics (endocrinology) in the OHSU School of Medicine, and also part of the OHSU Doernbecher Gender Services team. Physician assistant
- Elizabeth Yiu, M.S.N. FNP-C, an instructor in obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine. Yiu is part of the OHSU team that specializes in providing gender-affirming hormone therapy, gynecological and obstetric care. Nurse practitioner
- Kael Tarog a patient navigator who processes all of the program’s patient requests, including scheduling assistance and inquiries from individuals wanting to become new OHSU patients. Tarog enables the program to respond to most inquiries within two business days. More than 2,300 requests were received in 2021.
- Hales Skelton, B.A., a care integration specialist who streamlines and improves access to gender-affirming surgery within OHSU’s urology department. Skelton helps ensure urological surgery plans remain on track by helping patients meet pre-surgical requirements.
In addition, Kelly Jeske, LCSW, in mid-February will become the program’s second social worker. Jeske will further link patients to community resources, help coordinate care and provide behavioral health support. OHSU also plans to hire a second electrologist, which could double the amount of pre-surgical hair removal services that OHSU offers.
To better serve patients outside the Portland area, the program also started the Transgender Health Virtual Consult Clinic in July 2021. The virtual service connects patients who are referred by their local primary care provider with an OHSU provider for a consultation about hormone therapy and other gender care. This new service offers technical expertise to local primary care providers who need support in helping their gender-diverse patients overcome specific gender-related health challenges. Providers who would like to refer their patients for this service can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of the Transgender Health Program’s efforts to continue offering gender-affirming information to OHSU providers who may not be directly involved in the program, it launched its own quarterly grand rounds lecture series. Grand rounds talks are traditionally designed for health care professionals to share their expertise with each other. The program’s new series features transgender and gender-diverse patients sharing their own experiences and perspectives with the health care community. A list of upcoming grand rounds and recordings of previous talks are available in the “education and events” section of the program website.
In addition, the Transgender Health Program’s Community Advisory Board now has 10 members. The board engages in policy review, employee recruitment, community engagement and educational activities to promote a welcoming and gender-affirming care environment. More information can be found in the “how to get involved” section of the program website.
Program Medical Director Christina Milano, M.D., and Tarog are also part of the core team who designed and are now facilitating a virtual series about gender-affirming primary care and hormone therapy for health care providers. The inaugural, 15-part series is being hosted by the Oregon ECHO Network, which offers interactive online educational programs for Oregon health care professionals. The current series enrolled 91 participants and is closed to new enrollees, but a repeat series may be held in the near future. Those interested in participating in the future can sign up at the Oregon ECHO Network website.