'A clinic without walls': How Sutter's new gender care advocates extend support, hope

Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health has hired two of the system's first patient advocates who are specifically designated for supporting patients with gender care, according to a June 14 publication from the health system. It plans to hire one advocate for each of its five regions in time. 

Sutter has two gender care advocates, Izek Campion and Ghazalla Sadiq. Mr. Campion has been in his position for two years, serving as Sutter’s Gender Care Program official gender care advocate. He sees patients virtually. Sadiq is assigned to the Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation’s 45 Castro Street Care Clinic in San Francisco, which has served a robust LGBTQIA+ patient population for many years. 

Their mission is to assist patients with setting up appointments to receive the care they need from medical specialists, answer questions, and work with payers to receive insurance authorizations for gender-affirming services, medications and treatments.

"It's just common, unfortunately, for trans and gender diverse people to experience a lot of discrimination in the healthcare setting," Mr. Campion told Becker's. "A lot of them have had negative experiences that prevent them from even wanting to come in for basic care. Or if they do come in, there's always a question about 'Am I going to not feel safe?' or 'Will my provider not know my needs as a trans person?' and 'Do they know how to treat me?' That's why we have this patient advocate role. It is really to support our patients to help them feel safe and supported wherever they are along their journey."

On average, Mr. Campion helps 15 to 30 transgender and gender diverse patients per day — connecting them with resources, answering questions, and providing a sounding board as a transgender individual himself. 

"I love making sure our patients feel safe," he said. "Because I can meet them from a standpoint of 'Hey, I'm trans too. I get it.' And I can tell patients have this instant moment of taking their guard down." 

Sutter's Gender Care Program regularly provides internal training to departments and teams to expand its reach of gender-affirming care practices and typically holds between two and four a month. The program also oversees a mandatory online gender care training for Sutter employees, under which 28,500 have already been trained. 

"We call our program 'a clinic without walls,'" Kat Brooks, Sutter's Gender Care Program manager told Becker's. "There's not just one brick and mortar location at which you can receive gender care. We have care centers throughout our all of our different markets within Sutter to avoid having the patient have to jump through hoops to receive what they need."

Patients even call from out of state looking to Sutter for support if they can no longer receive care in their own state due to rapidly changing laws, they said. 

Ms. Brooks said Sutter hopes to hire one to two more additional gender care patient advocates within the year and will continue to reassess according to patient demand.

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