Southern Californians have a new option for transgender primary medical care. Cedars-Sinai, the nationally-renowned hospital based in Beverly Hills, has announced a transgender health program.
“This feels like a really natural step and really needed,” said Mary Clare Lingel, vice president of strategic integration at Cedars-Sinai. “It’s primarily about the quality of care we provide, but predominantly focused on the life-long relationships that we have with our patients because our belief is that relationship impacts the quality of the outcome.”
Patients can access trans health services at the non-profit hospital’s locations in Beverly Hills and Culver City.
Cedars-Sinai made national headlines last year for launching its Transgender Surgery and Health Program. The surgery program changed the landscape for transgender care in the West, as it was one of just two academic medical centers regionally with a gender-affirming surgery program.
Before the program, many trans people were forced to travel out of state or to go to private providers, many of whom refused public insurance.
Four years ago, Dr. Maurice Garcia founded the University of California, San Francisco’s gender confirmation surgery program. He again expanded trans care in California by founding the surgery program at Cedars-Sinai in 2017.
Garcia says a lot has changed in the four years since he started the UCSF program, as physicians learn about trans health needs and insurance companies grow adept at processing trans health claims.
“There is much more public awareness of who transgender people are, what treatments are available to them and, most importantly, the disparities they have to contend with in our society,” Garcia said. “With that awareness comes increased understanding.”
Primary care then became the next logical step for the hospital. For one, it allows patients coming to the Cedars-Sinai surgery program the continuity of having their medical needs met in one place.
Dr. Carl Violano, a primary care physician, says it’s also just about building a safe place, a counterpoint to the horror stories he has heard his last ten years serving trans patients.
“It is incredible to see people live and become their true selves. There is nothing more remarkable to me,” Violano said. “I think having an environment in which, there are not only providers who are knowledgeable on transgender health [but] comfortable managing hormones whether it be initiating hormones or maintaining hormones, I think that’s extraordinarily important."
A study by the National Center for Transgender Equality points to a dearth of trans-friendly medical care the U.S. That report found that 50 percent of trans people had to teach their own doctors about transgender care. Many (28 percent) postponed care when they were sick or injured due to discrimination.
Los Angeles was not without transgender primary care. The Los Angeles LGBT Center already has a transgender health program. The University of California Los Angeles offers gender-affirming care as well.
But LGBTQ think tank the Williams Institute estimates there are 218,400 adults who identify as trans in California. The demand for gender-affirming healthcare remains strong.
Lingel says the hospital is already eyeing expanding the program out to its other locations like Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley as well as newer ones still under construction.
“I have high hopes that this mission we have around this particular community, we can carry forward into these new geographies and make it easier for people to access the primary care piece of it in their neighborhoods,” she said.