Navigating Health Care as a Transgender Patient

Drug Topics Journal, Drug Topics February 2022, Volume 166, Issue 02

A recent episode of Medical World News' Deep Dive shared best practices for caring for transgender patients.

Navigating a cancer diagnosis is hard. Navigating a cancer diagnosis as a transgender patient is even harder, according to Don S. Dizon, MD, medical oncologist, director of women’s cancers at Lifespan Cancer Institute in Rhode Island and associate professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

“I think what people may not realize, particularly my colleagues, is that any person who identifies as gay or bisexual or trans…[e]very single time they meet a new doctor, there’s that moment of anxiety of: Do I need to come out to this person? Are they going to ask me, and what’s going to be the repercussions if I do?” Dizon said.

Dizon sat down with Hayley Virgil, senior editor of OncologyLive®, a Drug Topics® sister publication, for a recent episode of Deep Dive, covering a wide range of topics, from the importance of society-published guidelines to how patients can be their own advocate.

“If a patient is not being cared for in an environment that they consider friendly, supportive, [and] equal—if it’s hostile, and they’re going in with increased anxiety—then I would encourage them…to state [their] experience,” Dizon said, adding that “I” statements—such as “I felt,” “I was,” and “I heard”­—are powerful, “because no one can take that away from you.”
Even outside the oncology space, pharmacists play an important role on the multidisciplinary care team.

Providing “comprehensive, respectful, and gender-affirming support” to patients, as well as improving the physical pharmacy space and environment, can position pharmacists as trustworthy health care providers for transgender patients, wrote the authors of a 2019 study published in Transgender Health.1 Keeping principles of cultural competence—the ability to “understand, appreciate, and interact with people from cultures or belief systems different from one’s own”2—in mind can go a long way toward ensuring that transgender patients are receiving the highest quality of care.


In 2021, the Human Rights Campaign and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) partnered to create a guide for pharmacists on providing inclusive services for patients in the transgender and gender-diverse communities.3 Released on March 31 to mark International Transgender Day of Visibility, the guide is “an educational tool and a resource…on how to be inclusive to transgender, nonbinary, and gender-diverse patients,” said the organizations in a press release.4

“The pharmacy profession holds itself to the highest standards of conduct,” said Ilisa Bernstein, PharmD, JD, FAPhA, senior vice president, pharmacy practice and government affairs, at APhA,4 adding that the guide promotes “treating patients that identify as transgender and gender-diverse with the utmost care and respect.”4

To watch the full episode, visit


  1. Redfern JS, Jann MW. The evolving role of pharmacists in transgender health care. Transgend Health. 2019;11;4(1):118-130. Doi:10.1089/trgh.2018.0038
  2. DeAngelis T. In search of cultural competence. American Psychological Association. Monitor on Psychology. 2015;46(3):64.
  3. Transgender and gender diverse pharmacy resource guide. Human Rights Campaign Foundation. March 31, 2021. Accessed January 28, 2022.
  4. Human Rights Campaign and American Pharmacists Association release new guide on trans inclusion for pharmacies on trans day of visibility. News release. Human Rights Campaign. March 31, 2021. Accessed January 28, 2022.