Transgender youth and their families have a new resource for furthering their mental and physical well-being.
In July, Duke started the Center for Child and Adolescent Gender Care, North Carolina’s first such center and one of a few in the southeastern United States. The center—which has a core group of six staff—was founded by assistant professor of pediatrics Dr. Deanna Adkins with the goal of providing scientific treatments such as hormone therapy and surgery to children with gender dysphoria or sexual development issues.
“It was after I met several kids who had problems and did a lot of research and readings, that I really started to discover what a huge need there is out there for the gender dysphoria population, and how deadly it can be,” Adkins said. “About 40 percent of them attempted suicide. It’s just an amazing percent of people who are at risk of dying.”
The center serves two main populations of patients. The first are those who have disorders of sexual development, or DSD. Many of these patients are diagnosed as infants with conditions such as ambiguous genitalia or congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The second group are those with gender dysphoria who are interested in exploring treatment and transition options toward the gender they most identify with.
“I work with our mental health team and our social worker in discussing with the family what the potential options are for medical and possible surgical treatment for children,” said Dr. Jonathan Routh, associate professor of surgery and assistant professor in pediatrics.
Clinical social worker Kristen Russell noted in an email that the center fills a critical need for a transgender community that has historically lacked access to quality gender-affirming medical services. The DSD population will also benefit greatly from coordinated, interdisciplinary care to promote sexual and emotional well-being, she said.
“I have been taking care of some kids with gender disorder for many years, but we haven’t had a real center with the support group and all the other support staff before,” Adkins said. “Now, we have all these patients together, which makes it easier to have staff focus on and take care of those kids and families all at one time.”
Russell hopes the center will develop into a center of excellence that will provide well-rounded care to patients.
“The center...is set to become a leader in medical provider training and collaborative networking with other medical centers to build strong community outreach and support for patients,” she wrote.
So far, the team has received overwhelming support from Children’s Hospital and Health Center administration and staff, as well as the School of Medicine. It has also been welcomed by patients and families, Routh said.
“We have been very thoughtful and very focused on making sure that we do this in a mindful manner,” he said. “We have received nothing but support from the University and the surrounding community.”