*Editor’s Note: Akron Children’s Hospital is now seeing patients in its new Center for Gender Affirming Medicine.
When children, teens and young adults question their sexual orientation or gender identity, they look for answers. Resolving their uncertainty and concerns around identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) can cause a lot of confusion and angst for teens and loved ones.
“It was important to us as adolescent medicine providers to be out among the LGBT community,” said Dr. Crystal Cole, an adolescent medicine physician at Akron Children’s Hospital. “We talked to children, teens and their families and friends about the inclusive care we offer in a non-judgmental and affirming environment. We knew from research that the more support, acceptance and help LGBT kids receive, the lower their risks for depression, suicide, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse and homelessness.”
The Division of Adolescent Medicine also shared its plans with people they met at Akron Pride to grow the subspecialty and primary care services it offers to transgender and gender nonconforming patients. Currently, Akron Children’s is developing a pediatric transgender care program to address gender-related medical and mental health needs.
“The number of children and teens we treat who are transgender and gender expansive is growing at Akron Children’s,” Dr. Cole said. “Right now, we refer them to resources in the community, many that are in Cleveland. Some patients and their families aren’t familiar with or comfortable traveling there. They find Cleveland daunting and inconvenient.”
According to Carole Becerra, director of diversity and inclusion at Akron Children’s Hospital, the outreach the hospital is doing with the LGBT community fits with its diversity and inclusion initiatives.
“Just as we advocate and care for the refugee population in our area–or any other group who comes to us–we want to ensure that the LGBT people we see feel safe, accepted and comfortable when they walk through our doors,” she said. “By being present at a celebratory event like Akron Pride, we are trying to show the community our commitment to 3 promises we’re founded on: treat every child as our own, treat people the way they want to be treated and take care of every child regardless of their ability to pay.”