Dr. Michael Lee-Poy realized he didn't have enough training the first time a transgender patient walked into his office.
"I really was sympathetic to their needs but I didn't have the knowledge to back that up and so I had to really seek outside education," he said.
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It was early in the Kitchener doctor's career and the experience inspired him to do more to help every patient that came to him. While Rainbow Health Ontario is an organization that has educational training, there's little offered in medical school and residency programs.
It took a few years, but Lee-Poy co-developed a program called TransED. The program launched last fall in collaboration with the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy and McMaster University and the goal is to help students be able to provide quality care for transgender patients.
TransED is an online educational program for all health care professional students.
"Our goal is to educate and provide a knowledge base for health care providers so that going out into practice, they'll feel like they have competencies that they need to provide good trans care and increase their comfort level providing that care to them," he said.
Below is the video to introduce students to TransED:
'A great honour'
Now, Lee-Poy is being recognized with a national award for his work to improve care for transgender patients.
He is one of 10 recipients to receive the Reginald Perkin-Family Physicians of the Year award, which he'll receive in Montreal on Friday from the College of Family Physicians of Canada. The award recognizes family physicians across the country who are leaders in family medicine.
Lee-Poy is a family physician and part of his practice focuses on treating transgender patients.
"It's certainly a great honour," Lee-Poy told CBC K-W's The Morning Edition on Tuesday of the award. "When we look at past winners, it's such an honour to be included in that field of people."
In a release, the College of Family Physicians of Canada said the award recipients should be commended for their efforts in their communities to support patients as well as teach and mentor others in health care.
"The passion and commitment they bring to the profession of family medicine are an inspiration to their peers and to the next generation of family doctors," the college's president Dr. David White said.
Health care changing
Health care for transgender individuals is growing in the medical system, but there are still some issues that need to be addressed, Lee-Poy said.
The Trans PULSE Project, which looks into the impact of social exclusion and discrimination on the health of trans people in Ontario, showed many transgender individuals were faced with unwelcoming health care providers, stigma and discrimination.
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"We're seeing a change in that, which is fantastic to see," he said. "But there is still a lot of development to occur. A lot of the time people still are afraid because of that historical context."
Lee-Poy added health care professionals should be open-minded and willing to listen to the needs of a transgender patient to create change and ensure they are receiving quality care.