Transphobic Doctors Ignorant of Trans Health Issues Even When Educated on the Topic, Study Finds

Personal bias, not hours of education, appears to determine health providers' level of knowledge.

A study has found doctors and healthcare providers who are transphobic have less knowledge about transgender health issues even when they have been given adequate training and education. In fact, the Michigan Medicine-led study found no correlation between more hours of education in the field and improved knowledge of transgender care.

Nearly half (48.4%) said they had been given no training on the topic, even while as many (49.7%) reported having provided care for at least one transgender patient.

“We were surprised to find that more hours of education about transgender health didn’t correlate with a higher level of knowledge about this topic among providers,” says lead author Daphna Stroumsa, M.D., MPH, an obstetrician gynecologist at University of Michigan’s Von Voigtlander Woman’s Hospital and a National Clinician Scholar at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

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“Transgender and gender diverse individuals often face discrimination in health-care settings, and many are unable to find competent, knowledgeable and culturally appropriate health care,” Stroumsa adds. “Lack of provider knowledge is a significant barrier, but our findings suggest that simply increasing training may not be the solution.”

“Medical education may need to address transphobia and implicit bias in order to improve the quality of care transgender patients receive.”

Researchers surveyed a total of 389 attending physicians, advanced practitioners, and residents. They were sampled from the departments of internal medicine, family medicine, and obstetrics and gynecology in a large urban health system in the Midwest, while “controlling for demographics, transphobia, and other potential confounders.”

Strousma also argues transgender patients can be better served by the implementation of gender-neutral language on intake forms, and elsewhere.

“The OB-GYN field has traditionally centered on serving the health and needs of women. But our approach and language may unwittingly alienate a vulnerable population in need of our services.”

Advocates speak in support of protecting access to healthcare for the transgender community at a rally in Washington, D.C. in 2017.

A 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, found a third of respondents who said they had at least one negative experience related to being trans, such as being verbally harassed or refused treatment because of their gender identity.

Another 23% said they did not seek care for fear of mistreatment, and another third said they did not seek care because they couldn’t afford it.

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