Dr. Carolyn Wolf-Gould Wins Robert Wood Johnson Award to Expand Gender Wellness Center in Oneonta
dr. carolyn wolf-gould
Dr. Carolyn Wolf-Gould has recently been recognized as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar. She won this prestigious national award for the work she and a team of other practitioners are doing to create a Gender Wellness Center in Oneonta, New York. The award includes a $500,000 grant to expand the Gender Wellness Center and commitment from Dr. Wolf-Gould to provide a variety of health care services to an expanding group of patients there. A core of five team members offers care at the center, including Dr. Wolf-Gould; her husband, Dr. Chris Wolf-Gould; Dr. Diane Georgeson; Tania Villa, P.A.; and Justine Woolner-Wise, L.M.S.W.
The Gender Wellness Center opened its doors in 2012 in response to a growing need to provide health care to transgender patients, many of whom experience significant difficulties accessing care.
A transgender individual identifies with a gender that differs from the one assigned at birth. This phenomenon and its attendant medical complications was rather mysterious to Dr. Wolf-Gould when she started Susquehanna Family Practice in Oneonta with her husband, Dr. Chris Wolf-Gould.
That changed in 2007 when a visitor saw a "safe space" sticker on her door. The visitor was moving to Oneonta and asked Dr. Wolf-Gould to accept him as a patient; he was a transgender man and needed someone to fill his testosterone prescriptions.
She was sympathetic, but told him she knew nothing about treating transgender patients. He told her that he needed a doctor and perhaps she could learn. She set about doing so. When the patient arrived, he wanted to talk about smoking cessation and arthritis pain. "That taught me something about meeting people where they are, and about not making assumptions," Dr. Wolf-Gould said recently.
Soon the practice outgrew the Susquehanna Family Practice, and Dr. Wolf-Gould began attending, then speaking at conferences on gender dysphoria, trans patients, and raising cultural competency for treatment of these patients.
The first step in creating better access to care for transgender patients is getting the word out about the existence of the Gender Wellness Center. The desire to do so prompted Dr. Wolf-Gould to search for funding opportunities; she learned about the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program just 10 days before the application was due. With help from Dr. Anne Gadomski, director of Bassett's Research Institute, and other research institute staff, she managed to submit an application. Funding from the award will lead to the center's expansion and will also enable additional studies and data collection.
Many of the center's 400 patients drive over 200 miles to reach its doors in Oneonta, because so few providers offer care to transgender patients or understand their specific needs. One third of the patients served by the Gender Wellness Center are under the age of 21.
Anyone interested in helping this program can send a donation to Friends of Bassett, at 1 Atwell Road, Cooperstown, NY 13326, or make a donation online. To support this program, simply designate your gift to Gender Wellness Center.