Oneonta Practitioners Selected for New National Leadership Program by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Five practitioners from A.O. Fox Hospital’s Gender Wellness Center in Oneonta have been awarded $500,000 over three years as participants in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars Program, a new national leadership program that aims to improve health and reduce disparities in wellness and longevity across the United States.

Drs. Carolyn and Christopher Wolf-Gould, Dr. Diane Georgeson, physician assistant Tania Villa, and Justine Woolner-Wise, LCSW, are among the first cohort of fellows selected through a competitive process for the RWJF Clinical Scholars Program. The five practitioners will join 25 other clinicians from around the country to collaborate on tackling some of nation’s most pressing health issues (http://www.rwjf.org/changeleaders).

The Oneonta group’s clinical scholars project will study the feasibility of a center of excellence for transgender health within the Bassett Healthcare Network.

“This is an amazing opportunity, and the fact that our clinicians were selected to participate in such a prestigious program speaks volumes about their very innovative work and commitment to improving the lives of their patients and the transgender community as a whole,” observes Fox Hospital President Jeff Joyner. Fox Hospital is a Bassett Healthcare Network affiliate.

Over the next three years, the Oneonta practitioners will establish an exploratory committee to conduct a gap analysis, solicit input from the transgender community and perform a needs assessment. The information will be used to develop and implement a strategic plan that will identify and address barriers to care and health care disparities for transgender people.

Gender Wellness Center practitioners (l. to r.)Tania Villa, R-PA; Justine Woolner-Wise, LCSW; Carolyn Wolf-Gould, MD; Christopher Wolf-Gould, MD; Diane Georgeson, MD“Transgender people are among the most marginalized individuals in this country,” says Dr. Carolyn Wolf-Gould, who has been providing care for transgender patients since 2007 and established the Gender Wellness Center in Oneonta three years ago. “Every day transgender people face relentless discrimination in employment, family life, education, housing and public accommodation. Some of the most appalling discrimination occurs in the health care setting when they reach out for help. Often, this is because of inadequate training for health care professionals.”

Specifically, the Oneonta team of scholars plans to work toward excellence in transgender health in regards to 1) medical services for youth and adults, 2) gender affirming surgical services, 3) mental health services, 4) training for regional health care providers, medical students and residents, and 5) community-based research.

Woolner-Wise has been providing mental health services and education for schools through the Gender Wellness Center since 2013, and was instrumental in helping the team define a mission and vision for moving forward. “Our mission is to provide comprehensive, affirming medical, surgical and mental health services for gender nonconforming people and their loved ones,” explains Woolner-Wise. “Our vision is to serve as a regional center and to include comprehensive transgender health services, including medical, surgical and mental health in a community-based setting. We value evidence-based, culturally competent care for pediatric and adult patients with diverse gender identities. We commit to community outreach, advocacy, community-based research and training for health care providers who are new to this field.”

Christopher Wolf-Gould notes that the group has contracted with at least three local individuals/organizations for assistance. “We will be working with the Bassett Research Institute, Dr. Susan Turell, clinical psychologist and Dean of the School of Social Science at SUNY Oneonta, and the Training Institute for Gender, Identity, Relationships and Sexuality (TIGRIS) in Albany. This will help us with assessing area needs, training and project implementation.”

The providers at the Gender Wellness Center provide medical and mental health services to over 380 transgender patients, most of whom drive two hours or more from the Capital Region, downstate and outside of New York State. They anticipate being able to expand access to their practice in Oneonta since adding two additional clinicians earlier this summer. Tania Villa, RPA-C, comes to Oneonta after developing services for transgender patients at Planned Parenthood in Ithaca. Diane Georgeson will be offering trans-affirming gynecologic care from the Gender Wellness Center.

The RWJF Clinical Scholars Program specifically aims to engage clinicians from a variety of fields and specialties in expanding their influence beyond the walls of their local hospital or clinic. Each receives funding to work on a specific project proposed in a competitive grant process that focuses on addressing health and equity related issues.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. It is working with others to build a national Culture of Health, enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

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