New University transgender health clinic aims to make care accessible

The Transgender Health Clinic, which opened in August, provides specialized services for transgender students, faculty and staff.

by Allison Cramer

Boynton Health added the Transgender Health clinic as part of an effort to improve services for transgender members of the University of Minnesota community this summer.

The effort started with a Boynton audit that examined health disparities and needs among LGBT patients, along with best practices to address them. Some University employees said the center — which offers services like hormone therapy and sexual health care — makes high-quality care more accessible to transgender people at the University.

The clinic’s intent is to provide individualized and patient-centered care for transgender students, staff and faculty, said Dawn Brintnell, a nurse practitioner in the Transgender Health Clinic.

“Within the scope of transgender services, we provide hormone therapy as needed or desired by the patient. We do things like write letters for surgeries if those are desired or needed,” Brintnell said. “And we do provide primary care as well to address the everyday health needs of trans folks.”

Stef Jarvi, director of the University’s Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life, said the center has consulted Boynton for several years on how to serve transgender people’s healthcare needs.

“Health services for trans folks and gender nonconforming folks are not always easily accessible, and there are a lot of barriers that trans and gender nonconforming folks have to confront that cisgender students, faculty and staff don’t have to,” they said.

Some of these barriers include clinicians using incorrect pronouns or names, health insurance barriers and high out-of-pocket costs, as well as difficulty accessing specific healthcare like hormone therapy or surgeries, Jarvi said.

Boynton already provided many services that are available at the clinic, but the addition of the Transgender Health Clinic marks a commitment to providing them on a regular, permanent basis, said Carl Anderson, director and chief health officer of Boynton Health.

One of Boynton’s advantages is that transgender patients have access to a range of care in one location, said Coralie Pederson, another nurse practitioner in the clinic who came to Boynton with experience providing hormone replacement services.

“We have such a great opportunity to have mental health right here in our building, and we can have consultations with [patients] as needed and have everything here under one roof,” Pederson said. 

University officials formed the Transgender Health Clinic partly in response to the results of an LGBT audit published early last summer, which showed room for improvement in the University’s existing LGBT health services.

“I think [the audit] was a good place for us to start with understanding how broad the scope of issues were throughout the health service,” Anderson said.

The audit demonstrated that staff at Boynton had concerns about using appropriate terminology and pronouns while serving LGBT patients. Employees also want to know more about gender expression and behavior terminology.

“All throughout this there’s a strong desire by our staff to learn more and gain more knowledge so they can be more helpful managing this group of our population,” Anderson said.

Other issues found in the audit include forms that lack gender inclusivity and problems documenting preferred names and pronouns within Boynton’s information system. 

The consultant who conducted the audit will stay at Boynton for some time to help develop a plan to address some concerns raised by the audit, including targeted training for staff members with experts and community members, Anderson said.

“Whenever we receive feedback from patients that they expect more out of us, then I think that we take that feedback seriously,” Anderson said.