Helping Transgender Patients Reap the Benefits & Navigate the Challenges of Hormone Therapy – NYU Langone Health

Posted: August 12, 2020 at 3:51 pm

For people with gender dysphoria, hormone therapy can significantly reduce mental distress and improve quality of life. NYU Langones multidisciplinary transgender program takes an intensely personalized approach to these treatments, centered on the individual patients goals, life circumstances, comorbidities, and evolving clinical response.

Although many medical centers offer gender-affirming hormone therapy, NYU Langone does so under the direction of an endocrinologist who specializes in transgender care. For these patients, the clinicians expertise can be crucial to optimizing outcomes, explains Michele B. Glodowski, MD, clinical instructor in the Department of Medicine, whose fellowship training included extensive clinical rotations at the University of Colorados Integrated Transgender Program.

Gender-affirming hormone therapy typically uses different doses and modalities from hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal cisgender women or cisgender men with low testosterone. The risk of complications, including certain types of cancer, may be heightened as well. With testosterone, we often see weight gain, changes in LDL and HDL cholesterol, elevations in hematocrit, and increases in insulin resistance and blood pressure, Dr. Glodowski notes. Feminizing regimens, such as estradiol, can also trigger weight gain, raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, and often affect liver enzymes and triglycerides.

Besides enhancing her ability to monitor and manage side effects, Dr. Glodowskis training helps her tailor treatment to patients unique needs. Theres a whole spectrum of gender identity and gender expression, she says, so its important to provide a whole spectrum of care. It looks different for every individual. Some patients, for example, may identify as definitively male or female, others as nonbinary or gender-fluid. Some may choose to have hormone therapy in conjunction with gender confirmation surgery; others may choose hormonesor surgeryalone. And a wide range of external factors may influence patients therapeutic pathways.

Theres a whole spectrum of gender identity and gender expression, so its important to provide a whole spectrum of care.Michele B. Glodowski, MD

Even in 2020, people still lose their jobs or get kicked out of their homes because theyre trans, Dr. Glodowski observes. I want to make sure patients are comfortable with all the social aspects that can come into play with gender transition. If someone says, Im not ready to come out at work yet, we might slow the process down a bit. If they say, my parents have 30,000 questions, we might arrange a visit with mom and dad. Patients may wish to have their eggs or sperm frozen before hormone therapy begins, to preserve their fertility. Those who do sex work might benefit from screening for sexually transmitted diseases, or consultation with a social worker who can connect them with supportive services.

In collaboration with her colleagues in the multidisciplinary transgender programwhose specialties include plastic surgery, gynecology, and urology, in addition to endocrinologyDr. Glodowski is able to ensure that patients receive precisely the care they require.

NYU Langone Health has been certified for 7 consecutive yearswith a score of 100 percentby the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Healthcare Equality Index Report, which evaluates the work of medical facilities in providing equal healthcare access to LGBTQ+ Americans. One factor in that success is the centers patient-centered approach to transgender care.

In some practices, patients can walk into the office and have someone use the wrong pronoun, Dr. Glodowski says. The doctor might see them briefly, write a prescription, and thats basically it. At NYU Langone, everyone from the receptionists to the medical assistants to the physicians have been trained to be sensitive to gender identity. I spend 40 minutes with each new patient, and 20 minutes with any follow-ups. In addition, we have one clinic a week specifically dedicated to gender-affirming hormone therapy.

The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has also made telehealth a crucial component of the transgender programs endocrinology practice. Although the crisis has waned in New York City, many patients prefer to continue with video visitsciting both safety and convenienceafter an initial in-person consultation. At the height of the pandemic, many providers turned to telehealth to limit in-person visits for non-urgent care, Dr. Glodowski explains. But there is a high rate of suicidal ideation and suicide in patients who are trans-identified. For this patient group, almost all care can be described as urgent, especially for someone whos new to hormones and may be experiencing severe dysphoria.

With those who are beginning a course of hormone therapy, Dr. Glodowski typically schedules a video visit to discuss treatment goals, the expected timeline of physiological changes, and potential side effects. We want to make sure that every patient is very well informed, she explains. As treatment progresses, she will order lab work and discuss results with patients via video link, as well as checking on therapeutic progress and the patients comfort level with the regimen.

Whether a visit is in-person or remote, she adds, its always essential that we provide patients with a safe, gender-affirming space.

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Helping Transgender Patients Reap the Benefits & Navigate the Challenges of Hormone Therapy - NYU Langone Health

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