Transgender Actors Can Train Doctors to Provide Quality Care

Doctor holding patient's hand in comfortInternal medicine resident physicians who interact with transgender actors during their medical training are then better able to provide quality care to transgender patients after their residencies, according to a study published in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education.

Most physicians receive little or no training on transgender health. This gap in training can contribute to condescension, discriminatory behavior, bad medical advice, and false beliefs about trans identities. These experiences can endanger the health of transgender individuals and impede transition for those going through the process.

How Trans Actors Can Improve Medical Care

For the study, a transgender actress played the role of a “standardized patient,” who consistently portrayed a common medical scenario among trans patients. The actress took two hormones, spironolactone and estradiol, but had high blood pressure and high potassium levels. She also expressed interest in removing her testicles.

The doctors were encouraged to understand and respect her treatment wishes and develop a treatment plan. Researchers also looked at whether the physicians took additional measures to be sensitive to the patient’s needs, such as asking her gender identity and the pronouns she used.

Twenty-three internal medicine residents interviewed the actress. The actress then rated each resident on their ability to communicate and provide satisfactory care. The physicians had average scores of 89 out of 100 for overall communication, and 85 for satisfaction. These scores are similar to those provided by a cisgender standardized patient in nine control scenarios.

This suggests training work with a transgender actor can help doctors overcome communication and knowledge barriers.

Meeting the Health Care Needs of Trans People

Research consistently finds many doctors are ill-equipped to meet the needs of transgender patients. Many transgender individuals face prejudice and discrimination in health care. Having physicians work with transgender actors during their medical residencies can also take the burden of transgender health education off of transgender patients later on.

The 2016 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found 19% of transgender individuals who seek medical care for any health issues are denied treatment. More than half must educate their providers about care. Another recent study found the mental health care system often fails to meet the needs of transgender individuals, even though many face discrimination and violence. These experiences are associated with an increase in mental health concerns.


  1. National Transgender Discrimination Survey. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Schatz, R. D. (2016, July 29). Transgender actors teach NYU Langone med students to be better docs. Retrieved from
  3. Transgender actors effective in teaching new doctors to provide respectful care. (2017, June 15). Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Amber R

    June 22nd, 2017 at 6:40 AM

    What an incredible idea! This is the kind of empathy and caring that it takes for anyone to be a good physician but especially when you are working with a community which is so frequently demoralized and misunderstood as it is. Bravo to whoever came up with this idea, and here’s to more on improving the life and the health care given to those who are just as much of the fabric of our society as any other person is.

  • clay

    June 25th, 2017 at 5:56 PM

    geesh you can understand the needing to be more in tune to the health care needs of the transgender community but it seems ridiculous that those as educated as doctors usually are would even need any kind if sensitivity training
    you would think that this would be something that would just naturally fall in line with being a decent human being.

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