Health » Fitness

University of Miami Opens LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health

Wednesday Feb 15, 2017

Building on its mission to cultivate inclusive health care, the University of Miami Hospital, part of UHealth -- the University of Miami Health System -- has opened a new and innovative clinic to meet the comprehensive health and surgical needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.

The LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health is one of the first of its kind in the southeast U.S., uniquely located in a hospital setting where a multidisciplinary team of UM physicians, including renowned gender affirmation surgeon Christopher J. Salgado, M.D., provide comprehensive medical and surgical services.

"The clinic is a major milestone for the University of Miami and will help improve access to quality medical care for LGBTQ patients," said Salgado.

Located on the second floor of the hospital's West Building, the newly renovated site is equipped with state-of-the-art exam rooms and doctors' offices. It also offers spa-like amenities such as facials and skin care products. However, one of the clinic's greatest advantages is being in an academic hospital with around-the-clock care and highly trained medical staff.

"Gender affirmation surgery is major surgery that needs to be performed in a hospital setting rather than an ambulatory setting," said Salgado, professor of surgery and editor of the recently published book "Gender Affirmation: Medical and Surgical Perspectives." "At UMH, physicians and hospital staff provide continuous monitoring and are equipped to handle any situation that may arise. Being in a full-fledged hospital also helps ensure the best outcomes and recovery from surgery."

At the center, patients receive individualized care, including routine physicals, mental health and psychosocial support. The medical team includes adolescent medicine physicians, urologists, gynecologists, and a range of plastic surgeons, including Wrood Kassira, M.D., assistant professor of surgery; Harvey W. Chim, M.D., assistant professor of surgery; and Morad Askari, M.D., associate professor of surgery and orthopedics.

As gender identity, sexual orientation and alternative lifestyles can pose unique barriers to health care access, the center offers a welcoming and comforting environment where patients receive individual guidance on their journey into gender affirmation and overall care for other health issues.

"When you have a center devoted to the needs of LGBTQ people we treat you with both respect and compassion in addition to understanding what you are here for, whereas general health care providers may not understand," said Lauren Foster, UMH's Director of LGBTQ Concierge Services. "The clinic was uniquely designed to consider not only the patient's physical needs, but the emotional as well."

Foster, who is a transgender woman and an LGBTQ leader, said members of the LGBTQ community often shy away from seeking medical care because of the complexities of their needs. However, Foster said that the services provided by the center, particularly gender affirmation, are in higher demand because of greater insurance coverage, which didn't exist until recently. "In addition to younger patients getting the surgeries, we're now seeing older trans men and women who were denied for so long," Foster said.

The opening of the center builds on UMH's highly recognized outreach in inclusive health care. In 2016, UMH was recognized as a "Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality" by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the country's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.

Under Foster's direction, the hospital also implemented Cipher Health's LGBTQ rounding script, which allows patients to identify their gender/sexuality during the rounding experience.

"These strides have catapulted UMH into a national model for equitable health care and help save lives," said Foster.

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