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Few Military Doctors Well-Trained in Transgender Care: Study

MONDAY, March 13, 2017 -- Transgender people serving in the U.S. military may be hard-pressed to find a doctor who's knowledgeable about their needs, a new study suggests.

Surveying 180 military doctors and other care providers, researchers found few were adequately trained to prescribe cross-hormone therapy for "gender dysphoria" -- strong feelings of identification with the opposite gender.

Dr. David Klein, of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., led the study. Results were published online March 13 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

"Given that education in transgender care was significantly associated with greater likelihood of prescribing hormone therapy and that prior research shows that additional medical instruction on transgender care contributes to greater competency, it will be vital to augment the training of military physicians to ensure skill and sensitivity in treating patients with [gender dysphoria]," Klein and colleagues wrote in a journal news release.

Last year, the Pentagon lifted the ban on transgender people openly serving in the armed forces. Of an estimated 13,000 transgender men and women now serving, it's believed that 200 will seek treatment for gender dysphoria each year, the study authors said.

To assess doctors' competence in this area, the researchers surveyed 180 military doctors and other health care professionals. Most respondents were white and about 60 percent were men.

According to the study, only 5 percent had received more than three hours of medical training on transgender care.

And about three-quarters had no formal training in this field of medicine at all.

Nearly 90 percent admitted they didn't have enough education to prescribe hormone therapy for people who want to transition to the opposite gender. Moreover, about half said they wouldn't prescribe this treatment even if taught to do so.

Still, three-quarters of the military's care providers believed they could treat transgender patients without judgment. And just over half said greater openness and exposure to openly transgender service members would help them feel more at ease when providing them with medical care.

More training in transgender care was associated with the likelihood that eligible patients would receive hormone therapy for gender dysphoria, the study authors said.

More information

For transgender individuals, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association outlines some discussions to have with your doctor.

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Posted: March 2017