Local hospital launches nationu0027s first fellowship for doctors to learn gender affirming surgery

As the Trump Administration looks to roll back protections for
transgender Americans, one city hospital is planning for the
community’s future healthcare needs — by being the first in the
nation to launch a program training the next generation of
transgender doctors. Health Reporter Erin Billups has the story.

Ronald Phillips started modeling at a young age, growing up in front
of the camera, a picture perfect guy but inside Phillips felt anything but.

“I just couldn’t deal with the gender dysphoria I would feel at
home, in my daily life,” Phillips said. “Let alone going on
these sets where I had to play these roles. It was very uncomfortable.”

At 36 years old, Phillips began life as Mahogany — a transgender
woman but completing the transition proved difficult and expensive,
until she learned about Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine
and Surgery.

“I literally ran,” she said. “I was calling every
single day,”

Mahogany is one of about 350 transgender individuals to undergo
surgery at the center since it opened early last year.

The team operates on nearly four patients a week.

“In a city as big as New York there were only a couple of
surgeons even trained to do this, these operations,” said Dr.
Jess Ting, director of surgery at the Mount Sinai center.

Now Dr. Ting, is training more. This summer the center is launching
the country’s first, yearlong, transgender surgery fellowship.

Dr. Bella Avanessian is the first surgical fellow, she says before
she was only able to shadow transgender specialists for two weeks at a time.

“I had lots of obstacles finding people that would allow me to
visit them, who would allow to opportunity for someone to take a look
into what they do,” said Dr. Avanessian.

“Most plastic surgeons don’t deal with genitalia that
much,” Ting added. “If they do, it’s cosmetic. These
operations are unlike any others I have ever seen or witnessed, they
are just incredibly more complex, functional.”

And with 40 percent of transgender adults attempting suicide, the
center also focuses on patients’ mental health needs and has launched
a new psychiatry fellowship.

“We’re talking about an issue that is a matter of life and
death,” said Dr. Hansel Arroyo, director of the Transgender
Psychiatry Fellowship at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “Training this
generation of psychiatrist and becoming adept in transgender health
and transitional therapies that’s crucial.”

Mahogany completed her transition earlier this year.

“I felt stronger and stronger with each stage and I felt more
complete as I went along,” she said.

But many question whether this growth in transgender medicine will
continue, some worry Medicaid insurance coverage of sex reassignment
surgeries will be rolled back under the Trump Administration.

“That’s  a fear of mine, it is a fear of my colleagues, it is a
fear of almost every patient I come into contact with,” Dr. Ting said.

For now though, the program will go on, in the hopes that New York’s
more progressive climate will maintain the momentum in medical care
for transgender patients.

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