Connectus Health Convenes First Community Conversation about Transgender Support

Nashville, Tenn. -- April 12, 2018 --  As they cracked open plastic fruit trays and placed water bottles next to a stack of fliers, the leadership team of Connectus Health was still not sure who would come. This was their first attempt to convene a conversation around transgender support, something dear to the mission of their federally qualified health center.

The idea for the event came during a planning session for a Connectus Health fall festival in October.

“We regularly see and support transgender patients in our clinics,” said Connectus Health Co-CEO Suzanne Tilley Hurley, RN, APRN-BC. “Yet, we couldn’t figure out how to meaningfully engage with these patients and their families during a busy, crowded fall open house. We knew we needed to do something uniquely designed for dialogue.”

Hurley and Co-CEO Caroline Portis-Jenkins first worked with their team to identify Nashville-area organizations that also support the transgender community. They then reached out to these groups to invite them to participate and/or co-facilitate. The date was set for April 10, 2018, at Connectus’ Vine Hill Clinic on Bransford Avenue.

“We had such a great response,” said Hurley. “We were thrilled to have Michael Reding from PFLAG and Del Ray Zimmerman from Vanderbilt University Medical Center join us as co-facilitators and to have other support providers in the room.”

The evening was intentionally designed to be intimate, safe and relatively unstructured. Sitting in a discussion circle, approximately two dozen attendees ranged in age from about 18 to 55+. Hurley opened the floor with a call for anyone to share. It didn’t take long for the group to start talking. Topics included insurance frustrations; name-change complications; supports available (or missing) in more rural counties; youth-related topics; and resources available for spouses, family members and people of color in the overall LGBTQI community.

“I could not have been more pleased with the breadth and depth of the conversation,” Hurley said. “Better yet, we have new friends in the broader support community who can help us better serve our patients -- and more patients know how we can help. We will definitely do this again.”

For transgender patients, Connectus Health provides hormone therapy for medical transition; reproductive healthcare; culturally competent routine and primary care; behavioral health evaluation; consultation and intervention for general mental health conditions; information and referral for community/peer support; support through the process of pursuing gender-reaffirming surgery; free translation services; and assistance with insurance enrollment.

Maggie Forester