TEDMED Great Challenges: Transgender Health – The Video | Science in the Decade of the Patient

Each individual can make a huge impact just by coming out. – Dana Beyer, MD (@danabeyermd)

People have been asking me if they can view the recording of the groundbreaking TEDMED (@TEDMED) Great Challenges hangout “Transgender Health: An Evolution to Understanding”:

I of course watched it and had these takeaways:

  • The word “respect” was mentioned a lot, in tandem with the word “simple” – Marci Bowers, MD, talked about how just one person in a hospital setting can change the entire environment through a few simple actions
  • Marci Bowers, MD, who talked about how she worked to transition an entire hospital, from every nursing shift, to lab techs, do dietary staff – it can be done
  • Kellan Baker (@KellanEBaker) spoke about being visible and invisible – a person who is trans may be visible in society, at great risk to their health, and then enter the health system, where they may be invisible, also with great risk to their health
  • Even though this hangout is groundbreaking for TEDMED, it’s not groundbreaking for these experts.  I know  personally (and admire the work of) Kellan Baker and Dana Beyer, MD and was struck by all the panelists’ patient teaching of a topic they have probably discussed thousands of times to audience after audience. Oh, and thanks for the mention of Kaiser Permanente’s work, Dr. Beyer!

To Dana’s quote above, the medical profession is seeing a change – with every person who comes out and receives medically supervised care, more people will know someone who is (a) trans (b) healthy (c) respected and (d) able to speak for themselves. This is a turning point in the health and wellness of a population – when they, rather than others, control their life destiny. It’s the greatest thing to see, and it looks like TEDMED thinks it is, too.

Look how the science has changed – please read if you were trained in the 20th Century (or even if you were trained in the 21st)

Transgender person health care facts, 2013 via Sylvia Rivera Law Project

A person doesn’t have to look very far in 2013 to see how what we knew yesterday isn’t relevant today, from this 1981 National Coverage Determination by Medicare:

Transsexual surgery for sex reassignment of transsexuals is controversial. Because of the lack of well controlled, long term studies of the safety and effectiveness of the surgical procedures and attendant therapies for transsexualism, the treatment is considered experimental. Moreover, there is a high rate of serious complications for these surgical procedures. For these reasons, transsexual surgery is not covered.

Which is essentially wrong (that’s the most accurate medical term :))

…to the infographic from this year (2013) on the right, which is correct.

We’re having this conversation because we went into medicine to help people achieve their life goals, and we know we can do that. One more artifact from the Decade of The Patient.

Thanks a ton to the TEDMED team, and specifically Whitney Zatzskin (@MsWz) fellow community colleague and all around innovative human being, as well as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (@RWJF) , for their support of this hangout.

Enjoy, comments welcome.


Ted Eytan, MD