Dr. Sarah Swarts at Aurora BayCare Medical Center is an ally for the LGBTQ+ community. As an endocrinologist, she helps patients become the person they strive to be through hormone therapy. Swarts says what people need to understand about her work and her patients first, is simply respect and kindness.
“At the core of it, every single one of us just wants to be treated nicely and we want to be treated with respect,” Swarts said. “That’s the environment we want to have for them here.”
Swarts says she and her staff at Aurora Baycare put a lot of emphasis into making sure their patients feel safe and welcome, no matter where they are on their journey through transition.
“We want to start by having a nice welcoming environment,” Swarts explained. “So our front desk is wonderful, our phone person is wonderful, our nursing staff is wonderful.”
Swarts says the reason that acceptance is so important in her practice is because people who’ve made the choice to transition to another gender have likely already faced an unfortunate reality.
“It’s very scary to come to a doctor’s appointment for everybody, particularly for them,” Swarts explained. “It can be very scary because they don’t know if people are going to be nice to them and that’s sad, but that’s true.”
Swarts works with adult patients, 18 and older who are considering or are already in the process of a gender transition.
“Everybody has different pathways in their transition, so it’s not one size fits all,” Swartz said.
As an endocrinologist, Swartz uses hormonal therapy; altering hormone levels to match an individual’s gender identity. However, that process doesn’t start until a thorough educational discussion takes place.
“We chat about everything,” Swarts described. “I go over how you ended up here, what your thought process has been, how your pathway is going to look.”
Swarts also analyzes risks and benefits with her patients and encourages careful consideration of what the future may hold.
“If they want to preserve their eggs or their sperm we refer them to reproductive fertility to get that taken care of before they go on hormones,” she explained.
Even with all the preliminary discussion, Swarts says by the time most people come to see a provider for hormone therapy, the decision’s already been made in their minds.
“When I ask, ‘When would you like to start?’ they say ‘Five minutes ago!’,” she explained.
Swarts says people can offer support to a loved one transitioning by simply asking how you can help them or showing your acceptance of a co-workers transition by asking what pronoun they prefer you use when addressing them.
“Ask them ‘What do you want me to call you?’or ‘How should I address you?’,” Swarts said.
She says the important thing to remember is to keep asking, even after Pride Month has come and gone.
“Pride Month to me is a month to highlight our differences, but really, pride, respect and being who you are is a 12 month thing,” Swarts said.
All 27 hospitals in the Advocate Aurora system are designated LGBTQ+ healthcare equality leaders achieving a perfect score of 100 on the HEI or healthcare equality index.