10 17 mountain west transforming care header
Jen Rosio, University of Utah Health
Transforming Healthcare for LGBTQIA+ Patients
University of Utah Health Transgender Health Program’s Ariel Malan and family physician Erika Sullivan discuss the Mountain West Transforming Care Conference, an annual conference held to promote LGBTQIA+ health and provider competency of caring for these communities.


Adolescent Gender Affirming Care Summit

January 19-20, 2024 | 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. | Virtual

Mental health and care providers can earn up to 16 CEUs and CMEs for attending. CEUs and CMEs count toward obtaining Utah’s new Transgender Treatment Certification required for providers who serve transgender and gender-diverse adolescents.

Visit: https://medicine.utah.edu/mwtc-conference


or more than a decade, we have been working with LGBTQIA+ communities: Erika Sullivan in her primary care practice and Ariel Malan in advocacy and education. Our shared passion has led us to create the Mountain West Transforming Care Conference, an annual conference meant to educate primary care providers, advanced care clinicians, and mental health providers, to name a few, on how to provide culturally-competent, evidenced based whole person care to members of the LGBTQIA+ community 

Since the very first conference, presenters have been teaching and empowering providers to offer HIV PrEP, Gender-affirming hormone therapy and sexual health education. Now, in our fourth year offering the conference, we have expanded our offerings to include topics such as: 

  • Gender-affirming care 

  • HIV prep 

  • STI prevention 

  • substance use disorders and treatment 

  • mental health 

  • sexual health and wellness 

  • reproductive health and family planning  

  • education and residency training 

Each year, we continue to expand topics and offerings to keep conference attendees up-to-date on what they need to know to offer high quality care. 

The “Why” behind the conference  

As the LGBTQIA+ population grows, there is huge need to be adequately trained to meet the healthcare needs of the LGBTQIA+ population. Unfortunately, this type of care, including Gender-affirming care, is not comprehensively covered in medical school or residency training. Gender-affirming care isn’t outside of the scope of care that providers are equipped to give, and in fact most providers offer Gender-affirming treatment right now to patients in a variety of circumstances, including: 

  • Testosterone therapy for people with low testosterone 

  • Hormone therapy for menopause 

  • Referral to plastic surgery for breast enhancement 

While many people don’t think of these services as Gender-affirming, they absolutely are. But when these services are provided to the LGBTQIA+ population, providers often report reluctance in offering similar services to LGBTQIA+, often because they feel they have not been adequately trained on these topics. 

If we are going to provide culturally competent, evidence-based compassionate care, we must teach all members of the healthcare team how to confront this discrimination in themselves and in their clinics. We have to create a welcoming, comforting atmosphere that offers more than just STI testing and hormone treatment.

We have to offer a space where patients can be their true, authentic selves without judgment. 

We strive to offer education for all members of the healthcare team to ensure they can provide higher quality care for LGBTQIA+ patients. Our attendees include: 

  • Primary care physicians 

  • Physician assistants 

  • Nurse practitioners 

  • Mental health providers 

  • Nurses 

  • Community health workers 

  • Pharmacists 

We hope through our conference, every person who works in a primary care office, from the front desk to billing to nurses, can offer a consistent, positive experience to a gender diverse patient population. 

Comprehensive LGBTQIA+ healthcare 

While understanding Gender-affirming care and sexual health topics is important, LGBTQIA+ patients need comprehensive care. Providers have to balance the special needs of this population with the standard needs any patient faces. 

LGBTQIA+ patients have all the same medical needs as their heterosexual and cisgender peers have, too, but may be less likely to receive medical care if they don’t feel welcome at a primary care office. We have to provide training that helps providers understand what their patients may have experienced in the healthcare system before.

We have to help them feel seen, validated and safe.  

So while talking about sexual health is important, we want to emphasize that this is only a one aspect of the care this patient population needs. What they truly need is a provider they can trust with all aspects of their health and their selves. Our hope is that our conference gives providers a comprehensive toolkit for treating LGBTQIA+ patients in their clinics. 

The impact  

At the end of the conference, attendees should walk away feeling that providing LGBTQIA+ care is approachable. We want them to feel empowered to reach out for help, to reach out with questions. And we want them to feel confident in their ability to provide care for all their patients. 

The more providers out in the community who feel comfortable and confident in providing this care, the better health outcomes for LGBTQIA+ patients. Then they can receive care in the community, without driving hours and hours to find a clinician who understands them and who provides the care they need. We want patients to be able to stay in their communities, with the provider they know and trust, for all their medical needs.    

If you are a provider who wants to offer this care, we encourage you to get started by just saying yes to your patients. Yes, you can prescribe PrEP. Yes, you can prescribe hormones. Yes, you can find the resources and education you need to do it. And yes, you can care for your patients’ authentic selves in a welcoming, safe environment.  

Provider Spotlight: Jania Sommers, LCSW  

As a licensed clinical social worker with 30 years of experience, I’ve attended the Mountain West Transforming Care conference multiple times as part of my ongoing professional development. The field of mental health and social work is constantly changing and requires some creativity, imagination, and intellectual stretching to provide proper health care to a variety of people.  

What struck me most from the 2023 conference was a session about working with trans youth. With recent legal changes to providing trans health care to minors, I was happy to find support and actionable answers in a community of providers at the conference. For instance, I talked with another mental health provider about a new change to licensing that will impact therapists and social workers providing gender-affirming care and learned what steps to take to continue to care for clients. I also learned about community resources both inside and outside of Utah that I can refer clients to. The interdisciplinary community that the conference brings together was the most impactful part for me—I had some great conversations with providers that I hadn’t met before and thought it was an energetic and fruitful environment. It also reminded me how important it is to connect people with resources in the community and build networks.   

I will continue attending the Mountain West Transforming Care conference and encourage other providers to attend so they can educate themselves about comprehensive LGBTQI+ health. Whether you know it or not, you probably have queer patients. There are a lot of patients who have not shared their full identity with their provider because they don't know if they will be accepting. As providers, it’s crucial for us to be informed about the diverse people and communities we serve. It’s also important for us to connect and work together because we can’t do this work alone. 


Ariel Malan

Outreach Network and Development Specialist, University of Utah Health

Erika Sullivan

Family Physician, University of Utah Health

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