???Through these group meetings, we???re hoping to provide a safe and supportive community for youth and young adults in various stages of transition. This feeling of connectedness has the potential to positively affect these youth in the short- and long-run in every aspect of their lives.??? - Dana L. Rofey, PhD, Children???s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC


Grant Application

Dana L. Rofey, PhD, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic


Proposed Innovation

Adolescents and young adults who identify as transgender — or who question the gender assigned to them at birth — face many challenges. They often experience difficulties in their relationships with family members, teachers, and friends; endure prejudice, discrimination, and bullying; and feel anxiety and/or depression with their adolescent development. They are at an increased risk for suicide, substance abuse, and other self-destructive behaviors.

Launched in 2011, the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Gender and Sexual Development Program is one of a select few programs offering gender-related care for youth. Since it was created, the volume of referrals has grown from two patients a month to three or four new patients a week. The goal of this project is to pilot the use of group visits — including innovative video chat technology — to enable more young people and their families to participate and feel connected to a supportive community.


Improvements in Action

A group visit model will be created for both youth and their families, with material and talking points addressing such topics as: What does it mean to be transgender? How do I talk to a PCP, dentist, gynecologist, teacher, or other adult professional? How do I overcome school barriers? How do I recognize and deal with bullying? How do I keep my child healthy and safe?

Although the facilitator will introduce the topics, youth and family members will drive the conversation through brainstorming, sharing experiences, and identifying goals. The group session format encourages peer contact — patient-to-patient, and parent-to-parent — in a setting where participants feel comfortable and free to discuss difficult topics.


Results – In Progress

This project is expected to relieve isolation by introducing more gender minority and transgender youth and their families to their peers — all of whom are trailblazers in today’s society. They will have access to this powerful, evidence-based group technique and will have a voice in shaping the development of a manual and treatment plan that can serve as a model for implementation by other facilities. The project also will be assessed to measure increased involvement in care and changes in risk factors and protective factors (such as making and keeping provider appointments and scores on mental health screens).