As recently as five years ago — before Caitlyn Jenner vaulted transgender awareness into the mainstream — the fledgling Gender Health Services program at the University of Rochester Medical Center was in danger of collapsing. Enrollment was low, and the physician who ran the program had recently left the university.
“We had fewer than 20 patients,” said Katherine Greenberg, M.D., who was a fellow in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the time. “But we didn’t want to abandon them.” So Greenberg stepped up. Throughout the remainder of her fellowship, she worked to create a multidisciplinary team that helped her to manage her newfound transgender patients’ hormone levels and various psychosocial challenges. When her fellowship concluded, she was hired as a full-time faculty member so she could continue the work. And today, Gender Health Services sees more than 250 patients a year.
All across URMC, fellowship programs provide the most reliable pipeline of future faculty. In the Department of Pediatrics, close to 45 percent of fellows are eventually hired as full-time faculty. And many of those physicians would not have considered Rochester if they hadn’t already been here for their fellowship.
“I’m from Atlanta. I never expected to be in Upstate New York,” said Greenberg. “But I really fell in love with the biopsychosocial model that we emphasize here, and the humanism-type work that is done in Rochester.”
Today, Greenberg splits her time between Adolescent Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynecology. In addition to her work with transgender patients, she’s also one of two faculty members leading the LARC Initiative, a campaign that aims to increase the usage of Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) among teenagers.
Alongside Andy Aligne, M.D., Director of the Hoekelman Center — and with support from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation — Greenberg meets with key community members who interact with teens, such as community pediatricians, guidance counselors and school nurses. They discuss the safety and efficacy of LARC, which has been shown to be, by far, the most effective form of contraception, and the message is then filtered down to teenagers.
Three years into the program, Monroe County teenagers are now close to ten times as likely to be using LARC as the national average.
“It’s a program we’re definitely hoping to continue,” said Greenberg. “We’ve already seen tremendous results in the first three years, and now we want to build on that success.”