Starr D Taking Pride in Dignified Care Designed for the LGBTQ Community

“When I’m at PROUD, I find peace and comfort. It’s a safe haven.”

A new comprehensive health center caters to transgender and nonbinary patients.

Starr Davis, 32, a transgender man, wanted gender-affirming surgery, and a friend recommended that he make an appointment at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH). He was glad he did.

“The staff members made me feel comfortable, safe and welcome,” says the retail assistant manager. “They asked what my preferred name was and what pronoun I wanted to use. I felt like I was in a good place.”

RWJUH has been providing innovative, high-quality medical care to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) patients for years. In fact, the hospital has been recognized as a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” since 2015 by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.

The hospital recently centralized its medical services for LGBTQ patients. Last August, it established the PROUD Gender Center of New Jersey in partnership with Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The Center provides comprehensive care for transgender and nonbinary patients in one location.

PROUD stands for “Promoting Respect, Outreach, Understanding and Dignity.”

A Multidisciplinary Approach

At the Center, a multidisciplinary team of family medicine physicians, gynecologists, urologists, endocrinologists, plastic surgeons and otolaryngologists provides specialized care for LGBTQ patients. Hormone therapy and surgical procedures are offered to support the transition of transgender patients.

“The Center is leading the way in this area of medicine,” says Gloria A. Bachmann, MD, MMS, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Medical Director of the PROUD Gender Center. “We offer state-of-the-art and compassionate care.”

Gloria A. Bachmann, MD
Gloria A. Bachmann, MD

The Center aims to personalize care for patients. Jackie J. Baras, MSN, MBA, RN, Program Director of the Center and a transgender woman, serves as a patient navigator.

“A lot of transgender people are anxious about coming to the hospital,” says Baras, who is known to patients as “Nurse Jackie.” “They might worry that their name will be mispronounced. So, I guide patients who are having surgery. I bring them to the OR [operating room] and meet with their families while they’re having surgery. Afterward, I take them to the pharmacy to pick up their medications.”

Jackie Baras, MSN, MBA, RN, LGBT Health Navigator
Jackie Baras, RN

Baras also helps patients find forms for a name change, if necessary, and lets them know where they can receive various services, such as electrolysis.

“Members of the LGBTQ community don’t need to go to New York or Philadelphia for these services,” says Baras. “They’re right here in their own backyard.”

Support and Education

In addition to providing medical care, the Center hosts monthly educational and support groups for patients called “Proudly Me.” The two-hour virtual programs, which can be joined via computer, tablet or smartphone, feature a variety of speakers. Past speakers have included physicians, a gender studies professor and a pastoral care director. The first hour of each program is educational, and the second focuses on support. Recent programs have featured discussions about hormone treatment, trans literature and finding strength, support and meaning during the pandemic.

Staff members have created educational materials for transgender patients. An animated video focusing on hormonal affirmation treatment, which was created by Dr. Bachmann and Ian Marshall, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Chief, Division of Endocrinology, at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, received recognition at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting in October 2019.

Ian Marshall, MD
Ian Marshall, MD

The Center also educates physicians and medical students about LGBTQ health care. The Babs Siperstein Humanities and Medicine Seminar series provides information about topics such as facial reconstruction in gender-affirming surgery. The Center’s staff members give “grand rounds” presentations—in which clinical cases are discussed—to obstetricians and gynecologists at RWJUH.

A Satisfied Patient

In 2018, Starr had top surgery. “Nurse Jackie showed up at 5 a.m. to make sure that I was comfortable and the surgery was successful,” recalls Starr. “She helped me check in, then returned after the surgery. When I had a hysterectomy, she showed up to be with me on her day off.”

Starr is so comfortable with the staff members at the PROUD Center that he’s decided to stick with the practice for his medical care—even though he lives in Philadelphia. He’s currently planning to have a procedure to deepen his voice.

“When I’m at PROUD, I find peace and comfort,” he says. “It’s a safe haven.”

Specialized Services

The PROUD Gender Center of New Jersey provides the following:

  • Gender-affirming surgeries, such as chest masculinization and feminization
  • Hormone treatment and monitoring
  • Voice therapy
  • Facial feminization
  • Comprehensive primary care services
  • Tracheal shaving, in which the Adam’s apple is reduced in size

To learn more, visit the PROUD Gender Center of New Jersey or call (888) 724-7123.