UC Health’s Sarah Pickle, M.D., is a family medicine physician whose passion for transgender medicine and gender-diverse care has helped scores of patients. But she says there’s still work to be done.
In family medicine, we’re about living a life that feels authentic and aligned. For me, that resonates in gender-diverse care.
One of the things that I would love—and that we’re working to have fellow clinicians understand—is that everyone can have a role in providing gender-affirming care. Gender-affirming care means you accept the patient in their aligned and authentic gender identity and that you hold space for them in that clinical setting, whether that’s in the pre-assessment unit before surgery, or whether that’s in the mammography suite, or in our offices across our systems.
I think sometimes people hear transgender medicine and they hear hormones, or they think surgery. And while hormones and surgery may be part of people’s gender journeys, there’s so much more than those two elements. Our health systems across the country, historically, have marginalized folks. There haven’t been safe places to be able to access health care. And so sometimes when we hear things like “trans and gender-diverse folks have higher rates of depression or anxiety or suicide,” I think we have to be really clear that this is not because they are transgender. [It’s because] the way that their gender diversity has been viewed by society and the way that individuals can be marginalized within the healthcare system really [contributes] to those outcomes.
Health outcomes are more than just the clinical experience. Employment, education, housing, and the discrimination that can be within all of those also impact health outcomes. All of those are really necessary next steps to change inequities and to change outcomes. And as a society, we must do more to make sure that people are included, elevated, and celebrated.
Sarah Pickle, M.D., Family Physician, UC Health; Associate Professor of Family & Community Medicine, UC