Concept of gender-affirming care featuring a stethoscope and hearts in gender flag colors.

UB Medical Students Making it Easier to Find Gender-Affirming Care in Buffalo

With Help of UB Clinicians, Students Developed a Webpage That Went Live This Month Hosted By the Erie County Department of Health

Release Date: June 24, 2024

Elana Tal MD; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo; 2021.
“People were universally proud to be providing this care. The problem was the information wasn’t in any one place. ”
Clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Gender-affirming health care just got a bit easier to access in Western New York, thanks to a new webpage developed by University at Buffalo medical students working with local clinicians.

The webpage, LGBTQIA2S+ Healthcare Resources in Erie County, went live this month and is hosted by the Erie County Department of Health. It provides information about local health care resources specifically for patients who identify as LGBTQIA2S+. (The acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual and 2-spirit.)

Establishing Comprehensive Provider List for Patients

“People who are seeking gender-affirming health care should know that our region has a solid foundation of clinical and medical resources,” says Gale R. Burstein, MD, Erie County commissioner of health and clinical professor of pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

“Having us, as a local health department, host this list makes sense,” she continues. “LGTBQIA2S+ patients are more likely to be disproportionately affected by health disparities. This comprehensive list will save patients time as they research medical care options, and we are proud to support connections between LGTBQIA2S+ patients and the health care that they seek.”   

The need for such a resource became obvious when a new faculty member at the Jacobs School who provides gender-affirming care had difficulty finding other local clinicians who do the same. Gender-affirming health care providers often refer patients to each other so it’s important for them to be familiar with each other and the scope of their colleagues’ practices.

A quick search turned up only one name: Elana Tal, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Jacobs School. Tal lectures medical students in the reproductive module and clearly states her support for transgender and gender non-conforming people. She explicitly uses gender-neutral terminology and is course director for the Jacobs School’s transgender elective, developed by Nat Voos, MD, a Jacobs School graduate from the Class of 2023.

She knew there were plenty of clinicians in Buffalo and Erie County providing gender-affirming care, but the fact that they were hard to find with a quick web search was, she says, a concern.

With Burstein’s help, Tal convened a meeting with local clinicians who shared her concerns.

An Additional Barrier

“Not being able to access this information just becomes an additional barrier for people already stigmatized by society and the medical system,” Tal says. “They already have challenges accessing care.”

Those barriers are well-documented and can end up making patients reluctant to seek any kind of medical care, a significant health equity issue.

It quickly became obvious that there needed to be some kind of central repository of information for people seeking gender-affirming care.

Tal organized several students who she knew were interested in improving gender-affirming care in Western New York and gender-affirming education in the Jacobs School. The group included Virginia Alexandria Headd, MD, a 2024 graduate of the Jacobs School, who will soon begin a family medicine residency at Kaiser Permanente Northern California; Madison Clague of the Class of 2026; and Zoe Arditi and Berkley Sawester of the Class of 2027.

“We were dismayed at how hard it was to find providers, but also pleasantly surprised by the depth and breadth of services being provided by physicians once we identified them,” says Tal. “People were universally proud to be providing this care. The problem was the information wasn’t in any one place.”

Getting that information out to those who need it became the group’s main mission.

Clague was well-aware of the need to share such information widely. She had previously earned a master’s in public health at Columbia University, where her thesis was on “The Landscape of LGBTQ+ Health Care in the United States: Patient and Provider Perspectives.”

‘Pretty Much Word of Mouth’

“One of the things I found from doing my thesis was that people said the only way they could find gender-affirming care was pretty much word of mouth,” she says. “Just trying to find someone you trust or just knowing someone who has gone through it before you and then banking on their referral, that’s not sustainable.”

Headd led the students in developing and distributing the survey to local practices to find out what kind of gender-affirming care is being offered and where.

Across the board, the response was positive. “Everyone was supportive,” says Headd. “Some didn’t want their names on the website but were OK with the information about their practice being made accessible to patients.”

Gender-affirming care encompasses a range far broader than people may assume. It can range from medical and psychiatric treatments to many different types of plastic surgery, including oral and maxillofacial surgery and otolaryngology to speech and language coaching, all of which are available in Erie County.

“Transgender patients seek various types of medical and surgical care,” explains Tal.  “Some don’t seek any and some want lots of intervention. Those interventions might involve getting care from multiple different departments through multiple different practices through multiple different hospitals.”

To continue their work, the students have submitted an application for a Jacobs School social justice fellowship for this project for the coming year.

They are committed to enhancing gender-affirming education for their peers as well. For example, Arditi and Sawester helped organize the annual OUTpatient conference at the Jacobs School in May, which centered on gender-affirming care in Buffalo. OUTpatient is the Jacobs School’s LGBTQIA+ student organization.

“In medical school, you are building your perception of how patients are going to present to you and if that’s never introduced to you, you’re never going to think about it,” says Headd. “You don’t really cement those things until you see your first patient with a certain condition or identity.”

Tal concludes: “What I really like is that these students are choosing to put their scholarly interests into an advocacy project in a scientifically rigorous way, collecting data and reviewing the literature with sensitivity to the needs of the community. I’m really proud of them for making a difference.”

Gender-affirming providers who would like to be considered for inclusion on the webpage can email Tal at

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