Women’s College Hospital’s TRS program increasing capacity to provide life-saving gender-affirming surgeries

November 14, 2022

By Sam Pender

This week is National Transgender Awareness week and providing life-saving gender-affirming surgeries and care remains as important as ever. As the only publicly-funded transition-related surgeries (TRS) program in the province – and one of the only such programs in Canada – Women’s College Hospital (WCH) has been increasing its capacity and growing its team in order to provide this life-saving care.

The TRS team started out in 2019 with Emery Potter, Nurse Practitioner as the clinical lead of the program and Dr. Yonah Krakowsky, Medical Director of TRS. The team has since grown to eight, having recently added two physicians, Dr. Katie Armstrong, Plastic Surgeon, and Dr. Alexandra Millman, Urologist, as well as an additional nurse practitioner, Nahir Anashara.

Ontario has the largest trans population in Canada and, outside of WCH’s TRS program, there are limited options for trans-related surgical care.

“We are so excited to be expanding the care we provide, the research we conduct and our efforts in advocacy,” says Dr. Yonah Krakowsky, Medical Director, TRS.

Through increasing the team, the TRS program will be able to more than double the number of vaginoplasties offered each year, with top surgeries already doubled since the addition of Dr. Armstrong. Increasing capacity for these surgeries provides trans and gender diverse individuals relief from gender dysphoria and the many psychological, physical and societal struggles that come with it.

With access to these life-saving surgeries limited across the country, the team continues to take their advocacy for better access outside of the hospital as well.

“As a research team, we are interested not only in the access to transition-related surgery at Women’s, but also across Canada,” says Dr. Millman. “We are investigating the governmental and organizational facilitators and barriers to accessing care across the country, with the goal of identifying disparities in access and advocating for equitable access nationwide.”

Women’s TRS team is making strides with their research and academics as well, recently presenting their early outcome data from the vaginoplasty program and other research projects at the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) Scientific Symposium.

“As an academic program, we believe it’s essential to keep track of our outcomes and continue to research quality improvement,” Dr. Millman explains. “Our data was well received at the symposium and so far, our outcomes seem to be in line with those seen in other centres globally.”

The TRS program has done incredible things since its launch three years ago, and the team has no plans to slow down as Dr. Krakowsky remarks, “This has been a great year with growing the team, and we’re excited to see what 2023 brings!”

To celebrate Transgender Awareness Week, WCH’s Equity Committee will be hosting a booth in the Peter Gilgan Atrium on Wednesday, November 16 from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. with giveaways and a draw.