Photo Friday: Newest Addition to Health Care – Safe Bathrooms

2017.02.01 Shadowing Kaiser Permanente Kern County, California USA 00323
2017.02.01 Shadowing Kaiser Permanente Kern County, California USA 00323 (View on

When I had the opportunity to shadow family medicine specialist and Permanente physician Michelle Quiogue, MD (@DrMicheQ) at Kaiser Permanente Kern County recently, I spied this, the first time I have seen the new all gender signage standards in the wild. Prior to this day, I had seen them in the signage standards guide but never in real life.

It was a great an unexpected moment – in Bakersfield, California. Great, almost moving, because I know the feeling of finally being “seen” after being invisible in society – any member of a vulnerable or underrepresented group knows this feeling.

I am reminded by the book “A Fortunate Man,” written in 1967 (!) about a primary care physician in England (see my review of it here, a must read for doctors). In it, the history of medicine and physicians is discussed, and one of the most important roles of physicians in society is to make people feel “comparable to themselves” when it seems they may not be, because of an illness or other condition:

He does more than treat them when they are ill; he is the objective witness of their lives. They seldom refer to him as a witness…that is why I chose the rather humble word clerk: the clerk of their records.

With regard to Bakersfield, usually the most great and unexpected things occur in the places that people don’t think about as much. The same feeling of greatness is true for the family medicine I saw practiced here, except maybe I’d say expectedly great 🙂 . Michelle happens to be the Diversity and Inclusion Leader as well as the Wellness Champion for the Kern County Service Area. And, the incoming President of the California Academy of Family Physicians – hence, the expected and observed greatness.

As of 2017, this type of accessibility for all human beings is required by California State Law (see: OSHPD Issues Guidance on All-Gender Toilet Facilities – California Hospital Association), so these signs should not be an uncommon occurence moving forward. Note that these should not be understood to be restrooms for people who are transgender, nor should the needs of people who are transgender or gender non-conforming be framed around bathroom access. This handy publication helps with that understanding: (see: Just Read: Debunking the “Bathroom Bill” Myth: Accurate Reporting on Nondiscrimination – A Guide for Journalists).

In the meantime, this week’s photograph shows that the world is learning to love better, and the part of the world that should be leading the most, health care, is doing its share.

Thanks to Michelle, her team, and her service area for showing me.

Additional photos from my visit below – can you tell I was very impressed with the innovation here…

Ted Eytan, MD