Megan Anderson and Samantha Dyroff are both medical students at the University of Missouri. They both work with MedZou, a student-run health clinic here in town. When we spoke to them, Megan was a second-year student and the transgender health coordinator, and Samantha was a first-year medical student and ran the specialty services for MedZou.
They spoke about a recently opened specialty clinic at MedZou that offers free and inclusive healthcare for transgender Missourians, and about what that clinic has meant to some of their patients.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Megan Anderson: It’s really important to realize that gender affirmation can be anything. There’s so many methods that people can use. It’s not going to be my option or other physician’s option to make that decision for the patient.
The patient gets to make that option of where they are at and where they want to be with that gender affirmation. So, I think that in general is something that we’re as a clinic really pushing towards people understanding and people realizing - what are the goals for the patient?
Samantha Dyroff: I think as med students we always heard preferred pronouns was something that we should ask someone, but speaking with other trans health clinics they said, “No, don’t ask people what their preferred pronoun is. Ask them what their personal pronoun is.”
Because, by saying “preferred,” we’re saying we still have the power in what we’re going to call you, but you may request me to have a preference. Versus saying “personal,” it’s a way for us to further affirm their identity.
I just think that it’s very unique that we’re in this transition period of trying to set up the clinic, and so it’s allowing people who feel like they’re isolated from healthcare to really have a say in one - now I get healthcare - but this is how I want it to look and this is how I think it would best look.
It’s challenging us to maintain that viewpoint of everything that we do needs to be patient driven. The only way you can really do that is get the patient perception. Get their opinion. You know, we can pretend that we know what’s best for the patients, but we’re not going home to their situations.
I know for me, after our very first clinic in February, I had a gentleman come up to me, and he said, “There is absolutely nothing like this out there, and we’ve been waiting. And I’m about to go on Facebook and tell everybody to come here,” and he just literally skipped out the door, which was hilarious to me.
Megan: I think I know that patient. [laughter]
I think I just wouldn’t have realized, and just this being my own privilege itself, I would have never realized how important hormone replacement therapy can be for someone.
So, a couple of times last year, we started someone on hormone replacement therapy after them seeing the doctor and having a conversation, and it was clear that they really wanted it. All we did was write a prescription and we’re just like, “Here you go,” and their response was literally to just start hugging me.
I was just like, “Oh!” I’m an awkward person in general, if you know me, so I was literally just like, “oh my goodness, I don’t know what to do with my body.” [laughter]
So, I just immediately started like hugging them back. But just them laughing, that joy – I just would not have realized. And not every patient is going to react that way because we have other patients that will show their joy in a different way and you can tell.
But just that giant hug – that I was not expecting whatsoever, I was just kind of like, you know, what this is so important to someone. Even though I have the privilege to never be in that situation, this is something that can be very important to someone.