Anisha Patel, DO, is a pediatric endocrinologist and a founding member of the Yale Gender Program, which provides support and care for gender expansive youth.
“My approach to providing care in the Gender Program is affirming and supportive, and allowing space for the individual to explore their gender identity, but with a goal to keep the families intact,” Dr. Patel says. “Many times, when individuals come to us, they're very excited, and eager and want the affirming medical treatment ASAP, while the parents and family might still be processing and grieving.”
Family members may have just discovered their child’s gender identity, while the child has been living with it for many years, Dr. Patel explains.
The Yale Gender Program is the first multidisciplinary program of its kind in the state. “The way the whole journey started for me was when one of my patients came to me wanting gender-affirming care,” Dr. Patel recalls. “I said, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have a team.’ We usually referred people to nearby clinics, and the best one I knew of at the time was in Boston. Almost a year and a half later, that individual came back to me and said, ‘I live with my grandma and my grandma's old and doesn't have a great car. I can't travel out of the state. I need you to help me. I need you to just be my doctor and provide this care for me.’"
Dr. Patel says she looked at that patient straight in the eye and said, “OK,” and that set the program’s design in motion, along with the help of other medical providers in the community pushing for similar care.
“I share this story with a lot of our trainees because most of us go into medicine for some altruistic reason and we're driven by this calling to help people,” she says. “It sounds cheesy sometimes, but that's the reality. I've realized that sometimes your patients teach you the best lessons, or sometimes they challenge you to explore boundaries that you wouldn't have otherwise.”
Yale Medicine, Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital