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ETSU researchers studying ways to improve health care access for transgender individuals

Contributed • Oct 18, 2019 at 4:03 PM

Researchers at East Tennessee State University are conducting two studies that they hope will lead to better access to health care for transgender individuals in South Central Appalachia.

“Trans folks face a large amount of discrimination and stigma that affect their health through limitation to access to health care,” said Dr. Abbey Mann, assistant professor in Quillen College of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine. “We’re trying to get a better understanding of how trans folks in this region experience health care. Based on what we learn from them, we will tailor a training session next spring for local health care providers.”

Mann has talked with transgender individuals who have been turned down for health care or who have had trouble finding providers who will offer hormone therapy. Sometimes they will find a supportive provider, but the provider is not very knowledgeable about health care issues that transgender patients face.

“We have patients from our area who have been going to Asheville, (N.C.), or Knoxville for care for years because they have been unable to finding affirming care here,” Mann said.

Mann is the principal investigator on the project, titled “TransACCESS: Transgender Access to Comprehensive Care Experiences Study in South Central Appalachia.”

The interdisciplinary research team is comprised of Mann; Dr. Ivy Click, Department of Family Medicine; Dr. Leigh Johnson, Department of Family Medicine; Dr. Stacey Williams, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Brittany Wilkins, Department of Social Work, College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences; and Steph Hinkle, MSW, therapist.

ETSU’s Research Development Committee recently awarded the team a $49,994 interdisciplinary grant to conduct their research.

The first step of the study is currently underway, as the team is recruiting 50 transgender individuals to participate in in-person timeline interviews this fall and winter. The research team will be asking the participants to share their health care experiences.

The next step will be an online survey of approximately 200 transgender individuals from the surrounding area.

The results from the interviews and survey will then be used to develop a specialized, all-day training event that will be open to primary health care providers from throughout the region.

The training will cover topics ranging from culturally competent health care to general primary care, gynecological care and hormone therapy for transgender patients. It also will include sessions on health care logistics and health insurance for trans individuals.

Providers at ETSU Health Family Medicine have already gone through similar training sessions and are reaching out to the LGBTQ+ community through events such as the TriPride event held in Kingsport earlier this year.

“We want our community to know that we proudly serve the LGBTQ+ community and that we are actively engaged in research and education that will prepare other providers to do the same,” Mann said.

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