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New Health Center Commits To LGBT Health Care And Services

By |2015-12-17T09:00:00-05:00December 17th, 2015|Michigan, News|

BY AJ TRAGER

PONTIAC – A health center in Metro Detroit opened its doors earlier this year and is committed to providing primary care and services to the LGBT and allied communities.
According to the website, the Center for Transforming Health seeks to help patients prioritize and affirm healthy living standards and wellness on a consistent basis, but the center itself does a lot more than just help patients prioritize their health.
For Dr. Patricia Schmidt, creator of the Center, providing patients access to comprehensive care is key to her practice. She collaborates and focuses her care on the entire well being of each individual and her patients appreciate the alternative ways she goes about it. CTH currently has around 130 patients with a third of them identifying as transgender. Clients come to her from all over the state to receive care centered on treating the person as a whole using integrative and collaborative internal medicine practices.
Schmidt graduated from Michigan State University in 1987 with a degree in osteopathic medicine. She began her career as a practicing physician at Hamtramck Health Center of Michigan and held many jobs including teaching before she joined the Visiting Nurses Association of Southeast Michigan-Hospice in 2002. Schmidt left hospice care in 2014 and in March of this year, after talking about it for five years, she opened up CTH.
Two years before CTH opened its doors, a friend of hers came out to her as transgender. At the time, Schmidt didn’t know much about the trans experience and sought out informative experiences to not only get more acquainted as a friend, but also as a medical professional. She attended a support group at Affirmations and after a few visits realized that they needed help from a doctor with her expertise.
“I sat there thinking that they need a doctor like me. They were talking about the situations where they were shunned from care. It really impacted me that people were not getting respectful medical care,” Schmidt told BTL.
With the mentorship of Darnell Jones, Gender Identity Network Board President, Schmidt learned more about the specific issues affecting the trans community and how they tie into the person’s overall health.
“I would see people with him. They would come for his open house and we started to do a collaboration so I could learn about some of the issues,” Schmidt recounted. “There are specific things that I’m learning more about. But people are people and medically things are similar.”
She attended a conference hosted by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transgender health, and immersed herself in local and national research. She learned who the movers and shakers were in the trans health community and furthered her education in hormone replacement therapy and continuing care.
“I am all about helping people feel comfortable in their own skin. I want people to reach their highest health and wellness. I wanted this practice to be different than anything that is out here. We call it the clubhouse. People can have cookies and coffee and sit and chat with other people in the waiting room,” Schmidt said.
Recently CTH went above and beyond for some members of the LGBT community in Traverse City. When she learned that the northern city was in need of a healthcare professional versed in HRT and trans-related care, Schmidt planned a personal one-on-one meeting with a handful of clients. While CTH does do minor consultations over the phone, Schmidt found it necessary to make a personal appearance to help clients who were in need, but had no willing medical staff to assist them. Schmidt took her equipment, including computer systems and medical tools, and was able to start hormone-related care for seven individuals.
CTH is a non-traditional health clinic that instead of accepting insurance-based payments accepts direct cash. If a client does have health insurance the proper documentation will be submitted to the insurance company for reimbursement or application of their deductible, but Schmidt wanted to provide access for all people in need, especially for those who are financially insecure or cannot put the money down.
“I like being able to put my stamp on something that says I’m a doctor to care for people, and it makes me excited to come to work. Any time one of my trans patients comes back for a follow up, it’s like Christmas to me,” Schmidt explained. “I am excited because they are happy, validated and moving in the direction that they want to go.”
As Schmidt continues her education she is noticing that words like cisgender or gender presentation have slotted themselves into her daily vocabulary, but she does recognize that she still has a long way to go before she knows everything she can on LGBT health care. However, until that time comes, she makes sure that the office system has templates for preferred gender pronouns of her patients as well as preferred names and that all clients are addressed accordingly.
“Leilani (the office manager) and I are learning how to interact with the community and create a space where people feel the most comfortable and are affirmed,” she said.
Over the coming months Schmidt hopes to broaden CTH’s reach in the LGBT community while continuing to provide primary care for people with all sorts of illnesses. She is working to make sure that the office atmosphere is comfortable and affirming so that trans men, for example, feel comfortable coming to her to get pap smears and pelvic exams.
“My transformation has been to know that I’m a good doctor to be able to do this,” Schmidt said. “That I am able to take care of individuals and meet their needs in a safe, welcoming space.”
CTH is located at 2111 Cass Lake Road Suite 101 in Keego Harbor. For more information on CTH visit their website at {http://ctransformhealth.com/}.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.