Gender transition involves a team of healthcare providers. Most—but not all—of these providers are doctors. In fact, the first step in the process is meeting with a mental health provider. After a period of evaluation and therapy, this provider can recommend medical treatment for gender transition. The doctors involved in the process may include:
- Endocrinologists are experts in conditions relating to hormones. In gender transition, this doctor prescribes hormone therapy to influence sex characteristics.
- Dermatologists provide care for conditions of the skin, hair and nails. They can assist with procedures to improve the skin and deal with hair patterns or hair loss.
- General Surgeons may choose to specialize in a variety of procedures, including sex reassignment.
- Gynecologists provide medical and surgical care for the female reproductive organs.
- Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons specialize in cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. People in transition may consult a plastic surgeon for genital surgeries, breast or chest surgeries, facial reconstruction, body contouring, and hair procedures.
- Otolaryngologists (ENTs) are ear, nose and throat doctors. They provide medical and surgical care. This doctor can help with voice issues and perform surgery to reduce the prominence of the Adam’s apple.
- Urologists specialize in the care of the male reproductive system. They perform surgery in addition to providing medical care.
Finding the right doctor takes research.
Finding the right doctor for you may be a challenge depending on where you live. In some regions, and in larger metropolitan areas, there will be plenty of providers to consider. Other areas may have fewer doctors with the right experience. In fact, you may have to travel to find the best care for you. But finding the right provider is vital.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) is a main authority on healthcare for people considering gender transition. Their standards of care address competency of doctors providing care to this group of people. Here’s a summary of what they say:
- Look for a doctor who is board certified in his or her area of specialty.
- Experience and competence is key, especially with surgery. Surgeons should have documented training in genital reconstructive techniques and chest or breast surgeries.
- Ideally, surgeons should have plenty of experience with more than one technique. This allows them to tailor treatment for each patient. If they don’t have experience with the best technique for the patient, they should be willing to refer to another provider.
- Patients should use online resources to share their experiences with surgeons and their teams.
You can research and find qualified doctors right at Healthgrades.com.
There are many aspects of care to consider.
A doctor’s experience is vitally important, but there are other aspects of care that matter:
- Confirm that the doctor is in good standing with state and federal agencies and that he or she has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find this information on the doctor profiles on Healthgrades.com.
- Surgery for any part of gender transition requires a team of highly skilled and experienced healthcare providers. So you should also consider the overall quality of surgical care at the hospital where the doctor practices. Healthgrades evaluates hospitals based on mortality and complication rates of patients while in the hospital for a range of common procedures.
- As you narrow down your list of doctors, call each doctor’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor. Ask yourself if you are comfortable talking with the doctor. Does he or she respect your opinions and answer your questions in a way you understand?
- Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. There is great variability in what employer-provided health plans and private insurance will cover regarding transgender care. Research your insurance eligibility before making any commitments. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your surgery, you need to choose a surgeon who participates in your plan. But keep in mind: Just because a doctor participates in your insurance plan doesn’t mean he or she is a high-quality doctor. You still need to consider the doctor’s experience and expertise to make an informed decision
From: Sarah Lewis, PharmD