Gender pronouns open the door to awareness
Kristin Werner (left) and Jackie Brogie.
While recently attending an AHEC Scholars Program presentation on barriers to health care in the LGBTQ+ community, some staggering statistics were revealed about the transgender community. These included 41% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide and 19% have been refused medical care by a health care provider.1 Since 1.4 million adults identify as transgender in the United States, why are we not doing more to help this population? Similar statistics in other patient populations, such as patients with diabetes or cancer, would not be tolerated. Assertive interventions with changes to practices and protocols would be put in place. Transgender persons suffer significant health disparities and are an underserved population in health care.1 Many transgender folks avoid seeking medical care due to discrimination and not having access to knowledgeable health care providers who are educated on transgender issues.2
After this presentation, I (Jackie) felt compelled to be a part of the solution in some way. I remembered that Kristin had pronouns in her e-mail signature during our first-year of pharmacy school. While this piqued my curiosity, I had never asked her about it. I took a chance and reached out to ask if she would add those pronouns back—as she had taken them off due to fear of judgment—and that I would support her efforts. This started several good discussions when people saw our e-mail signatures. Some joined in and added their pronouns, but not as many as we had hoped.
As health professionals, we have a duty to our patients to improve outcomes to the best of our abilities. Treating the whole person, listening to our patient’s needs, being understanding, and advocating for our patients are within our realm of responsibility. The Oath of a Pharmacist states: “I will embrace and advocate changes that improve patient care.” A simple way to express support of transgender/non-binary patients and colleagues would be to add pronouns to e-mail signatures, business cards, and name tags.
Our outreach opportunity
Gender pronouns are how we address others when not using their name. Female pronouns include she/her/hers/herself.3 Male pronouns include he/him/his/himself.3 Gender neutral pronouns include they/them/their/theirs.3 By simply adding your own personal pronouns, patients and peers know that you respect how they want to be addressed. This creates a space of inclusivity and acceptance. It opens the door for conversation and awareness in the hopes that transgender folks feel valued and respected.
We recognized an outreach opportunity when our Men’s and Women’s Pharmacotherapy class syllabus included a lecture on transgender patients. We contacted our professor and asked for some lecture time to speak to our classmates. Our professor, Megan Coleman, PharmD, BCPS, CPP, was extremely supportive and we are grateful for the opportunity she provided. With our demanding school responsibilities, we made this decision the day before the scheduled lecture and quickly created a presentation overnight. With our thoughts (somewhat) organized, our statistics in place, and our hearts in our throats, we took 5 minutes to present the information to our class. Again, good discussions took place afterward and a few more people joined in adding their pronouns to e-signatures.
Create a culture of inclusivity
Our ask to you as future pharmacists who will be providing care for transgender patients is to consider joining our effort as allies to increase awareness and create a culture of inclusivity for our patients and colleagues. Becoming an ally demonstrates that you want to help change the world of marginalized communities even if you are not necessarily a member of that group. You could start by simply adding your personal pronouns to your e-mail signature.
Here are examples of our e-mail signatures:
P4 Hendersonville Class Representative
Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate 2021
Wingate University School of Pharmacy–Hendersonville
Self-expression and self-identification are part of my professional and personal values. One way to practice these values is to share personal gender pronouns. My name is Kristin and I use she, her, hers, herself pronouns. What pronouns do you use?
Jackie D. Brogie
Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate – Class of 2021
Wingate University School of Pharmacy
1. Safer JD, Coleman E, Feldman J, et al. Barriers to healthcare for transgender individuals. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2016;23(2):168‐171. doi:10.1097/MED.0000000000000227
2. Iyengar R. Doctors should ask all patients their preferred pronouns [Internet]. The Hill; c2020 [cited 2020 May 28]. Available from: https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/464233-doctors-should-ask-all-patients-their-preferred-pronouns
3. Medical Provider’s Guide to Gender Pronouns [Internet]. Pride in Practice, Inc.; c2020 [cited 2020 May 28]. Available from: https://www.prideinpractice.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Medical-Provider-Guide-to-Gender-Pronouns-Pride-in-Practice.pdf
Jackie Brogie and Kristin Werner are final-year PharmD candidates at the Wingate University School of Pharmacy.