This post comes from Meg Suhosky, Student Archives Assistant in the Historical Collections & Archives.
The OHSU Transgender Health Program, or THP, was established in 2015 with a collaborative mission to provide safe, accessible, high quality, and affirming health care for the transgender and gender nonconforming communities. In a recent interview from our Oral History Collection, two of the program’s co-founders sat down for an important discussion on some of the history and contemporary issues in the provision of healthcare for gender diverse patients. Unlike most of our Oral History recordings, what makes this session a little different is that the two doctors take turns interviewing one another, offering their own commentary, insights and perspectives with each response. Dr. Christina Milano and Dr. Daniel Dugi are an integral part of the community effort to expand healthcare equity for gender minorities. Both doctors were drawn to transgender healthcare services through very different paths, yet having a mutual experience of recognizing, as Dr. Dugi expressed, “a unique opportunity … in medicine to fill a need” and wanting to take part in changing the state of how these communities were being served.
Dr. Milano remarks that when she began her practice, “a major barrier was the absence of … very intentional gender affirming aspects to the environment of care.” In consideration of how this culture has changed over time at OHSU in particular, she says “I don’t have any reason to reflect back and describe the environment either as being unwelcome or hostile. That being said, I don’t think that OHSU was in any way going out of its way to create an affirming environment in any intentional way.” This is no longer the case, as OHSU and the THP strive to intentionally create a welcoming and affirming environment. The two discuss how far transgender healthcare services have come through the span of their careers so far, with a spirit of appreciation for what progress has been made and determination towards the work still to be done.
Dr. Dugi discusses the special difficulties in training and development for gender-affirming surgeries, and that transgender healthcare is “still suffering from a large shortage of providers able to do those things. And the waiting times for consultations and surgeries is really remarkable.” Still, they both reflect and celebrate the fact that OHSU and the THP “offer a pretty comprehensive offering of gender affirming surgeries. And [Dr. Dugi] think[s] that’s pretty remarkable for a town our size. And it speaks to the strength of the transgender and gender diverse community to support that and to help us as we try to offer those.” Their interviews also discuss the formation, development, and services of the THP as well as important individuals within the program and the impact they have had for positive change in the community.
Visit our Digital Collections to read both interviews. And learn more about the history of transgender health at OHSU in the Historical Collections & Archives exhibit, “Queering OHSU: Honoring Our LGBTQ+ History,” currently on display in the OHSU Library.