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University of Utah Health Care Summit on Transgender Health Seeks to Improve Relationships Between Health Care Providers and Transgender Population

It happens more often than many in health care communities across the country would like to admit: A transgender patient arrives for an appointment and a health care professional is insensitive or doesn't ask the right questions —leading to an experience of less-than-perfect health care and a patient who feels uncertain about where to go next.

It's a scenario that's slowly changing, as discussion about best practices in health care for treating the transgender population continue to evolve and are taught more freely to medical students and future health care workers. Learning how to better serve the transgender population in health care is one reason University of Utah Health Care is hosting a summit on Nov.8 titled "Expanding Knowledge of Transgender Health Care."

The first of its kind held at the University of Utah School of Medicine, the summit is aimed at health care providers, mental health professionals and students interested in improving their knowledge about Utah's transgender community.

"This is about health care, something everyone should have access to. People shouldn't be treated any differently because of their identity," said Andy Rivera, an undergraduate student in the University of Utah's College of Health who organized the event in conjunction with the School of Medicine.

The summit includes a variety of sessions including how to foster an understanding of treating transgender patients in mental health settings; understanding the scope of transgender medical and surgical therapies; preventative care measures; understanding hormone replacement therapy; and a panel of patients who will discuss their experiences in health care and changes they would like to see in the future.

The event's keynote speaker will be Loren Schechter, M.D., a nationally renowned Chicago-based plastic surgeon who is considered an expert in gender reassignment surgery and compassionate medicine.

The University of Utah School of Medicine is working to become a leader when it comes to transgender health issues, said Evelyn Gopez, M.D., Associate Dean of Inclusion and Outreach, hoping to keep pace with other organizations throughout academic medicine that boast strong outreach programs to underserved communities such as transgender populations.

Rivera, who is pursuing a degree in health promotion and education, said the event underscores the university's commitment to pursuing avenues to make all patients feel welcome, regardless of identity or sexual orientation.

"It's exciting to be a part of an institution that has a vested interest in wanting to promote diversity and wanting to ensure that there's the best education possible for both current and future health care providers," said Rivera.