Bridging the Transgender Gap

Appeared in: Nurse Together

For most people, finding a comprehensive healthcare plan that fits into their monthly budget can be difficult.  For transgender and gender non-conforming people, transphobia and other forms of discrimination sometimes make getting even basichealthcare difficult or impossible.

That is why Cecily Cosby, PhD, FNP-C/PA-C, Professor in the School of Nursing (SoN) at Samuel Merritt University (SMU), has developed a series of health promotion educational programs for the "Gender Bending" or "Gender - Non-Conforming" community.  She has worked with over 300 gender variant clients, and because of their experiences, the workshops addresses critical health issues such as harm reduction information.   

"Beyond the transgender patients known to have HIV infection and who are receiving care, there are estimated to be several hundred who are currently at risk and who could benefit from health promotion and disease prevention information provided in a safe and trans-sensitive manner," explains Dr. Cosby.  "There are currently few informal or formal support groups available for this population in the East Bay."

That is why on August 12, Samuel Merritt University is hosting its first educational program.  Entitled, "Pumping; What all the fuss?" experts in the health profession will discuss safety concerns regarding silicone injections.  (In 1992 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned direct injections of silicone.  The substance has been known to migrate within the body and cause chronic, degenerative illnesses.)

"These individuals have limited access to transgender specific health information and the nature of the transgender community often reinforces the participation in dangerous activities, such as the use of silicone injections," said Dr. Cosby.  "The sessions are to provide information and a group support."

The educational programs are offered by Dr. Cosby and SMU students in the family nurse practitioner (FNP) program.  Those participating have expressed an interest and additional educational training in gender nonconformity. 

"These sessions would model the provision of culturally appropriate care to a marginalized population and teaches a nonjudgmental and inclusive approach to care," explains Dr. Cosby.  "The skills learned and developed in this experience can be applied in all primary and acute care settings, but most importantly, it will help identify and integrate services for gender variant patients."

The programs would be offered in the Health Education Center every three months.  They would emphasize both the medical and psychosocial needs of the transgender population.  The educational programs will be combined with group support sessions that would be offered for open discussion and exploration of participant concerns in an effort to create a safe, confidential, and meaningful dialogue and a sense of community."

Additional topics will be identified by the transgender participants.  They could include, "Why higher doses of estrogen or testosterone aren’t always the answer", and "How to decide if, when and what surgery to consider."

"The needs of the transgender community are a priority for Healthy People 2010 and this program will establish SMU as a leader in the area of advancing access and quality care for this underserved population and supports diversity tolerance.  The Davis Street Primary Care Clinic (at Davis Street Family Resource Center in San Leandro) also offers free trans-sensitive healthcare to uninsured patients."

For more information about the educational series or to make reservations to attend the August 12th dinner workshop, please contact Dr. Cosby at 510-869-6634.

Cecily Cosby PhD, FNP-BC, PA-C, DFAAPA, is a Professor and Interim DNP Program Director at Samuel Merritt University


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