As someone with a passion for health equity, mental health, and vulnerable patient populations, I have sought out opportunities that align with my interests. Most recently, I began a project titled, “Assessing the Need for Gender Diverse Education Amongst Practicing Community Pharmacists.” Prior to initiating this project, I recognized transgender health as a controversial topic – an uneducated and irresponsible viewpoint inadequate to provide proficient and destigmatized care. When asked “What gender do you select within a retail pharmacy to identify a transgender patient in the computer system?” I was puzzled. I never considered how I would address said patient, let alone provide proper care.
This sparked a desire to explore my potential involvement as a student pharmacist. As I began to educate myself about the current nature of transgender health and the lack thereof, I learned gender identity disorder was described as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 2013 but has since identified the distress of gender dysphoria as a risk factor for the development of a mental disorder. I was horrified to learn that an alarming number (40%) of the transgender population die by suicide. The extreme stressors and stigma surrounding transgender health inherently cause psychiatric comorbidities, which could be avoided through education and training to provide equal care to everyone.
Initially, I personally struggled to begin this project. I do not identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, which led me to feel inadequate to conduct the study. However, through self-reflection, I determined my “why.” My joy stems from serving others; whether it is conversing with a stranger, volunteering in the community, or helping someone receive equitable healthcare. I discovered my role in this project was to serve as an ally for the LGBTQ+ community.
The focus and desired outcomes of this project are wide reaching and have potential application across multiple pharmacy practice settings. By assessing this knowledge gap and listening to the experiences of gender diverse persons, I am hopeful to integrate gender diverse care into the PharmD curriculum to educate current and future generations of pharmacists and provide continuing education opportunities to practicing community pharmacists. If this project impacts a single person’s care, it was an enormous success.
Madily Eberle | P3 student