An Open Letter to INTEGRIS Health
Can I spare a moment of your time?
Dear INTEGRIS Health Board of Directors,
I was once told a rumor that your hospital was once a go-to health facility for Transgender Healthcare. Of course this rumor is old, and harkens back to an era long before I set foot on Oklahoma soil. If it’s true, it’s an amazing rumor, and one that I’d like to see flipped back into a reality.
There’s a lot of speculation as to why your facility might have gone away from assisting those in need of transition related services, but the reasoning that seems most plausible is that of religious influence. If in fact religion played a role in delegitimizing a much needed service, than I am writing to address this issue. Although, even if it didn’t factor into such decisions, I’d still be remiss if I didn’t appeal to you in order to redress your facilities’ course with regard to Transgender care.
It should come as no shock that there isn’t a single physician in the state of Oklahoma (that I’m aware of) which practices procedures necessary for the most validating gender confirming surgeries. Moreover, finding doctors who are skilled in knowledge of the prescribing of hormone replacement therapy can be challenging to say the least. When the patient needs to explain to the physician how to prescribe proper treatment, that’s a problem.
This leaves many Transgender Okies in a bind when it comes to finding services to assist with their transition. About the only thing that’s somewhat achievable is finding a licensed counselor that is willing to assist in navigating a gender incongruity. I stress “licensed” because there are those who practice conversion therapy (reparative therapy) who have no license to practice and whom cause significant distress to those they practice on.
Add to these factors, the relatively minute options for Transgender Support Groups. I don’t bring this up to slight any of the existing groups, as there are a few within the OKC metro; one of which I personally help moderate at the Diversity Center of Oklahoma. However, options for support should not be so limited, and there are youth and parents that cannot be served by these groups given the ages of those involved.
All these missing links in Transgender health care are absolutely unnecessary in a state that has a healthcare network as vast as INTEGRIS’. Given your organization’s footprint in Oklahoma, you can reach many individuals who are too geographically removed from the OKC metro-based resources.
The time for ignoring the healthcare needs of the Transgender community has past. Johns Hopkins recently reversed their anti-Transgender course which had been set in motion under the religiously bias psychologist Dr. Paul R. McHugh. The timing in which McHugh shut down Gender Confirming surgeries at Johns Hopkins closely corresponds to the rumors I’d heard regarding INTEGRIS (formally known as Baptist) ceasing Gender Confirming treatment. If in fact your organization was intentionally following in the footsteps of Johns Hopkins, it would be my hope that you would consider following their current course regarding these treatments and once again opt to serve the Transgender community.
I am sure you are well aware, Gender Dysphoria and the course of treatment is laid out in the current form of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This lends all necessary validity to the condition and necessity with regard to it’s treatment. Moreover, as a result of this inclusion in the DSM, many major healthcare plans offer coverage for Transgender treatments ranging from counseling all the way to Gender Confirmation Surgery. My own company’s healthcare plan is among those.
As someone who experienced the high quality of care possible though your Weight Loss Center, I have to believe that INTEGRIS is up to the challenge of providing an equally high level of care to patients in need of gender transition.
Unfortunately, as the current state of Transgender healthcare in Oklahoma stands; anyone seeking surgical gender reassignment has no choice but to leave the state to become whole. I have to ask how this is acceptable?
Additionally, I need to understand how refusing to treat an established medical condition such as Gender Dysphoria through all available medical means is keeping in-line with the Hippocratic Oath which specifically says “to abstain from doing harm.” How is refusing to treat those with this condition abstaining from doing harm?
This is a pivotal moment for INTEGRIS. You have an opportunity to take a leadership role in assisting the Transgender community. This is not a new concept; I have a friend who is on a Committee at UPMC Hamot that is devoted to this very cause. INTEGRIS can use the strength of it’s network to better the lives of thousands of Transgender Oklahomans and become a center of Transgender excellence within this state.
In the short time that I have been “out” in the Transgender community, I have seen great strides made in the realm of Transgender care. But great strides made where no previous Transgender healthcare existed still falls significantly short of excellent care. This community deserves your recognition, and your support. I implore you to consider answering this call.
I am merely a simple advocate for my community asking for your help; seeking to find, and knocking to see if you’ll let us in. Please show us that the motto of Oklahoma means something to INTEGRIS. Labor Omnia Vincit (Work Conquers All). Will you work with us?