First US Transgender Surgery, Psychiatry Fellowships

In response to the growing need for treatment for transgender individuals, the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City has launched two medical fellowships – the first of their kind in the United States.

The fellowships, one in transgender surgery and the other in transgender psychiatry, have been given to Bella Avanessian, MD, who completed a plastic surgery residency, and to Matthew Dominguez, MD, who completed a general adult psychiatry residency.

Jess Ting, MD, head of the surgical fellowship and director of surgery at the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, New York City, told Medscape Medical News that past surveys have shown that a high percentage of transgender people “have avoided the healthcare system entirely for fear of discrimination” or because of fear that care would not be culturally competent.


Dr Jess Ting

“There is a real lack of knowledge in traditional medicine about transgender people, how to care for them, and what surgical options there are,” said Dr Ting.

“These fellowships will train the next generation of surgeons and psychiatrists to improve healthcare disparities in the transgender community,” he added in a press release.

The release notes that medical schools commonly provide a total of only about 5 hours of training on LGBT health issues – even though gender confirmation surgeries increased by 19% in 2016.

“Up until we started our program a year and a half ago, there were no places within New York City where a transgender person could have this surgery. And in a city this large, that’s quite remarkable,” said Dr Ting.

Approximately 500 patients are currently on the wait list for this type of surgery at the Mount Sinai Center, which opened in July 2016, yet Dr Ting’s team has been the only one performing the operations. “And there are only so many we can do,” he said.

Paying It Forward

During her 1-year fellowship, Dr Avenessian will assist Dr Ting and perform the surgeries, as well as teach residents and medical students and participate in transgender-related research.

“I think of it as ‘paying it forward.’ We’ll train her, and she’ll train the next generation,” noted Dr Ting. Eventually, “we’ll have enough surgeons finally to meet the unmet need that’s out there.”

During his fellowship, Dr Dominguez will “treat patients in acute and longitudinal care with…

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