One evening while I was working an overnight shift in the ER, a transgender woman with no symptoms of COVID-19 showed up at the hospital around 1am. She came in for some routine blood work, refills on her hormone therapy and antiretroviral medications, and her regular STI testing. I couldn’t figure out why she would come to the ER at such a dangerous time, potentially exposing herself to an infectious disease for routine medical care.
I often teach my residents that for each of our patients, we need to understand a key question – “why are you really here?” Patients are not always able to communicate the fears that lead them to the ER in their time of need. Our job as doctors is to pick up on their unspoken cues and treat them accordingly. This “guiding light” is what drives us to dig deeper when our gut tells us something isn’t right.
During our conversation, I discovered that, to her, it was worth the risk of possibly contracting COVID-19 to receive her hormone therapy medications so that she could feel like her true self. Friday night at 1am felt safe and worth braving the elements while most of the locked down New York City was asleep.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is taking up a considerable amount of time and energy, we have an obligation to continue our work to improve LGBTQ health. For our community, for our patients, and for all of the individuals that have made a late-night trip to the hospital just so they can feel like the truest version of themselves.
This is why I give to the LGBTQ Fellowship at the AMA Foundation.
Erick A. Eiting, MD, MPH, MMM,
Vice Chair of Operations for Emergency Medicine at Mount Sinai Downtown
New York, New York