Medical school professor finds lack of transgender research

A medical school professor wants to provide better care for transgender patients.

Michael Irwig, an associate professor of medicine and the director of the Center for Andrology, published a paper last week outlining the desired and undesired effects of testosterone therapy for transgender men. Transgender medicine researchers said doctors need more research to better understand how to treat transgender patients.

Irwig examined articles published in English and Spanish from January 2000 to May 2015 about testosterone therapy in transgender men. He found that transgender people do not receive better medical care because of the lack of high quality data.

“The research is important because clinicians need to know how to provide culturally competent care to transgender people,” Irwig said through a University spokesperson.

He wrote in the paper that few doctors have conducted medical trials with transgender patients. Irwig found in his study of transgender men that testosterone therapy is safe in the short term but doctors still do not know the long-term effects.

Testosterone therapy is the medical treatment for transgender men to increase their facial and body hair, lean mass and strength, deepened voice and reduced gender dysphoria. Irwig wrote that the potential undesired effects include acne and a possible increase in blood pressure.

He said that his end goals for his research are to find the specific effects of testosterone on the transgender voice.

“More high-quality research is needed in the field of transgender medicine,” he said. “I hope the research will inspire other researchers to further explore the field.”

Irwig said he has completed several research projects about transgender medical care, including a survey of transgender patient care and other research about the effects of testosterone therapy on the transgender voice – specifically in female to male transitions.

Irwig published a first-of-its-kind survey in February assessing endocrinologists’ practice patterns for transgender patients in hormone therapy.

Corina Lelutiu-Weinberger, a research scientist at City University of New York who is evaluating hospital staff trainings on handling transgender patients, said more health professionals understand the transgender community, but it is not yet enough.

“I started to learn about transgender health and the horrible discrimination and mistreatment that they get,” she said.

Lelutiu-Weinberger said she plans to create trainings that are more comprehensive for hospital staff on how to treat transgender people. She said more exposure is the key to progress in the field.

“The more we talk to young people about this, the less of a problem it will be in the future,” she said. “Starting education early is key to not just tolerance but acceptance.”

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