When a transgender student raised concern about the lack of transgender-specific health care at Dalhousie a few years ago, the director of Dal’s student clinic jumped into action.
Dr. Glenn Andrea, medical director and physician at the Dalhousie Student Health and Wellness Centre, signed up for training from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). Other doctors at the clinic followed suit.
With several doctors now trained in gender-affirming care, the university is able to offer supportive services right on campus in its health clinic.
“Attending the WPATH conference and training modules was truly an eye-opener,” says Dr. Andrea. “We at the Student Health & Wellness Centre are honoured to be able to offer gender affirming care and work with the 2SLGBTQI+ community. It is gratifying work for physicians, and we should never forget that trans health care is suicide prevention.”
Counting Dr. Andrea, Dal’s clinic now hosts four WPATH trained physicians and a psychologist, including Dr. Amy Mallory, Dr. Muna Chowdhury and Dr. Samantha Stasiuk.
With these certified physicians, accessibility to gender-affirming care services on campus has greatly improved. Students can book an appointment with the Student Health and Wellness Centre to see any of the WPATH-trained physicians by requesting an appointment with their chosen provider. Although these physicians are situated on the Halifax campus clinic, students on the Truro campus can schedule virtual appointments to access these services as well.
The physicians are trained to offer the following services:
- Initiating and maintaining gender-affirming hormone therapy: Instead of the previously required readiness letters for hormone therapy, students now simply need to have a conversation with their physician. This takes more of an informed consent and less invasive approach. Hormone therapy is covered under most health plans and is fairly inexpensive even without coverage. If a student needs assistance with the financial aspect of accessing hormone therapy, Hazel Ling, social worker at the Student Health and Wellness Centre, can refer students to the IWK Metro Dispensary which offers medications at subsidized prices.
- Providing letters of readiness for gender-affirming surgery. All provinces require more formalised assessment that can now also come from a physician and not only a psychologist for gender-affirming surgery. One letter is required for top surgery and two for bottom surgery. WPATH no longer endorses the previously required extensive psychological assessment for gender-affirming surgery. Find more info on requirements and eligibility here.
- Post-surgical follow-up: Physicians are here to develop a plan and ensure students are supported post-surgery.
Other important support services on campus
Dalhousie’s 2SLGBTQIA+ Advisor
Olivia Fader, the 2SLGBTQIA+ Advisor supports students through 1-1 advising, group programming, and campus-wide educational events to create a student experience that is meaningful and facilitates a sense of belonging.
“A large part of my work at Dalhousie is to ensure queer and trans students have access to the support and services they deserve. I’m proud to be part of an institution that prioritizes gender-affirming health care,” says Fader.
Some services Fader provides include:
- Accessing information and referrals for gender affirming care
- Support around name or gender marker changes at Dalhousie (or provincially)
- Advocacy for matters related to identity or gender expression
Dalhousie University endeavours to be an equitable space for each student. This commitment includes incorporating necessary supports like gender affirming care, increasing access to such services and removing barriers.
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