On July 30th, as part of the Leadership Lounge Series, Out Leadership’s Founder and CEO, Todd Sears, held a conversation with David Reich, President and Chief Operating Officer of Mount Sinai Health System. In this conversation, Reich talked about his past navigating life and the medical world as an out gay man, and about the work he has been doing more recently to create more trans-inclusive medical care. Their discussion began with Reich recounting his history in the medical field and his experience being an out gay cardiac anesthesiologist. Reich explained that it had been difficult at first, but that people became more accepting over time and eventually he was able to become part of a network of out gay professionals that supported each other through their careers.
Reich also spent some time talking about the experiences transgender people face within medical settings. He emphasized the importance of giving gender non-conforming children the space to explore who they are without placing rigid labels on them and forcing them into new boxes. This is because when children are raised in environments where they are able to explore their various interests and curiosities – whether that be how they want to dress, the toys they like, what they want to be called – they are able to be themselves first and foremost, and therefore are less likely to feel discomfort within their own bodies. Reich shared what he has been working on in regard to the trans surgical program, and how the program has developed and evolved over time. He explained that although gender affirming surgery is very important for transgender people, it cannot be the only facet of their medical care. They also need primary care with medical personnel that are educated and accepting of trans people, they need endocrinology, they need electrolysis and hair removal, they need access to psychiatry, and above all, they need to work with doctors that have a sense of connectedness to the trans community to ensure that they are receiving care that is biased in their favor.
To end their conversation, Sears and Reich shifted their focus to COVID-19 and the impact it has had on both the medical field and life in general. Reich explained that we need to move forward with vigilance and caution for at least the next 2-3 years – especially those in the LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ community has a unique history that, Reich expressed, many young queer people are not aware of. Reich talked about his LGBTQ+ synagogue in New York and how half of his generation from that Synagogue died of HIV. Understanding this history, one needs to learn from it and learn how to extend care, love, and empathy, but also how to move smartly and with a carefulness that will ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.