After meeting his first transgender patient, Newcastle-based GP supervisor Dr Steve Kelly, developed his subspecialty in transgender health. While she was a GP registrar, Dr Natalie Yeung sought a post in Dr Kelly’s practice to develop her own knowledge around transgender health.
Why did you become a GP?
Steve: It wasn’t necessarily a decision. Basically, I knew that I didn’t want to look after people in short spurts. I wanted to look after people long term and I probably wouldn’t have done anything else.
Natalie: It’s the patients and the relationships you build with the people and the families that you meet and see all the time. It’s about the variety in my day that you don’t get anywhere else, and I love it.
How did you develop your interest in transgender health?
Steve: By meeting my first transgender patients and understanding their needs were completely different. I became known as someone who was open minded and accepting. Then I basically spent time transforming my practice and transforming the workplace so that it was all inclusive. We were adding transgender specific details to notes long before they became part of the general form.
I was a founding member, with a group of colleagues and consumers, that formed the Hunter Gender Alliance. Newcastle is arguably the best city in Australia to transition. My colleagues and I wrote the Health Pathways for Transgender Health, it’s the one that’s been adopted throughout the country.
Natalie: I was inspired by Steve who was my GP supervisor. I came to this practice knowing that Steve had this subspecialty and I had no experience in transgender health whatsoever. My eyes were opened in terms of the patient groups that we saw here. I’ve been trying to learn more, as I’ve seen more patients who are transgender.
Do you have any recommendations for doctors who have an interest in transgender health?
Steve: Early career doctors should seek to do an elective term in an appropriate position, and there are a few of those around. The endocrinology department at John Hunter Hospital, for instance, does about 70% of its workload in transgender health. ACON which was set up to service HIV related health and LGBTQI health, has about 70% of its intake now as transgender health. There are sexual health clinics, obviously, the vast majority of what they do is related to sexual health, but an increasing amount is related to transgender health and there’s a lot of crossovers there.
In terms of education opportunities, there are conferences on transgender health throughout the world. There’s a world organisation, there is an Australian organisation and local organisations. Anyone who has an interest in transgender health, we’ll have an attachment to those organisations.
Natalie: I’m currently enrolled in the sexual health course via Family Planning NSW, and they include some education in transgender medicine. There are also some online courses that I’ve been going through including through the RACGP – it’s been hard with COVID-19 because there’s not much in person. Mainly it’s about seeing the patients that I see, talking to Steve, and we have a pretty good relationship with the endocrinologists at John Hunter Hospital and there’s really good communication between them and the GPs and I find I have learnt so much from that.