As an Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine with a focus on reproductive and gender health, Sarah Pickle, MD, is dedicated to helping patients live their healthiest and most authentic lives. Her time is split between caring for her patients and teaching the next generation of physicians to care for a full spectrum of individuals in the future.
After completing a women’s health and reproductive health fellowship, Pickle discovered transgender medicine. With her colleagues at UC College of Medicine, she went on to develop one of the nation’s first transgender-focused curriculums, which is part of both the UC College of Medicine’s “Physician and Society” curriculum and endocrinology course work, transcending the basic science and social awareness elements of patient care.
“Students are exposed to a culturally diverse world and a gender spectrum diverse world, so we need to give them the tools to care for a full spectrum of patients in an inclusive way,” said Pickle.
The transgender health curriculum is one of only a few at medical schools in the United States, but Pickle and her team are spreading awareness through collaborations and presentations. Pickle and her colleagues have been published on the Association of American Medical Colleges portal, which provides guidelines on how medical schools should teach students.
The curriculum debuted in 2016 and began its second iteration in 2018. Currently, Pickle is working on a research effort to determine best practices for training physicians in transgender medicine, which will help inform the curriculum moving forward.
“Transgender medicine is an evolving science and we are adjusting the curriculum as we learn more, so it will continue to evolve because this field of medicine is dynamic,” said Pickle.
Pickle hopes the transgender health curriculum will help remove barriers to care that many transgender patients face by creating a new generation of knowledgeable and understanding care providers who can navigate both the medical and social components of transgender health.
“As care providers, we need to allow each patient to share their narrative. Patients bring with them their past medical history, their gender identity, and their desired gender expression. There is no one plan that applies to everyone, whether it comes to hormones, surgery or any type of health care interventions that we can assist patients with,” said Pickle. “Each person is individual in what their journey is going to be, so we have to teach our students how to explore that journey with patients.”