It’s a transgender patient’s big day, a surgery they’ve been waiting years to happen. But even with the excitement, nerves set in as they think about the money, the pain, and the recovery.
“Every surgery that Dr. Salgado does, I come to the hospital early at like 7 o’clock,” said Lauren Foster. “I sit at their bedside and I tell them the story about my surgery and my bedside experience… it calms them down. This is the biggest moment in their lives, basically.”
Foster is a transgender woman and the director of concierge at the University of Miami’s LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health, where her colleague Dr. Christopher Salgado performs surgeries. Open since last spring, the center provides a one-stop shop for LGBTQ patients for their physical, mental, and emotional health.
Almost a year old, the center has exceeded expectations — the next opening for a surgery is October 2019. More staff has been hired to accommodate the drove of people seeking services, including a nurse practitioner to take on Salgado’s overflow patients and endocrinology. While the entire LGBTQ community is served, most of the patients who come to the center are transgender.
One of the goals the staff had last year was to create a support group, and since then Trans Trend Miami was formed. On the first and third Tuesdays of the month, people meet to discuss a plethora of topics at The Hub at the LGBT Visitors Center in Miami Beach.
“We had too many patients who couldn’t get to any kind of support,” Foster explained. “They’d have to drive to Wilton Manors or to Palm Beach.”
A topic of conversation that has been rampant among transgender patients is the fear of losing their health coverage under the Trump administration. With Republicans rolling back the Affordable Care Act, movement is underway that would allow health professionals to turn down patients based on moral or religious objections.
Namely, performing abortions or doing surgeries on transgender patients. With that, one of the goals is to get more surgical time in at the center. Currently, surgeries are only done two days a week.
“A lot of our patients are very nervous … they'll call me pleading and begging, ‘See what you can do, is there a cancellation?’” Foster said. “With insurance and that fantastic President Obama, all these [patients] can now fulfill their dreams and their authentic lives. They’re terrified that Trump is going to take that away.”
On the plus side, staff has been pleasantly surprised with the number of young LGBT patients coming in with their parents — the earlier that a patient is able to seek medical treatment or a positive support system, the better.
Beyond bringing the center to fruition, the University of Miami has been supportive in having Foster host sensitivity training for employees and students twice a month. She also takes part in speaking engagements.
It’s all rewarding, but it’s those moments bedside with a patient that Foster can really see the difference the staff is making.
“These guys come in and they’re all crouched over and the reason they’re crouched over is they don’t want anybody to see their breasts. You take off their binders and some of them had duct tape .. they’re black and blue,” Foster said. “After Dr. Salgado gives them their top surgery, when they takes the bandage off, they have a grin from ear to ear. They're so happy.”
What: LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health
Where: University of Miami West Building, 1321 NW 14th St. in Miami