Trans Care Intern Abby Roh shares her mission moments
Media, PA native Abby Roh lived in New York City for eight years before returning to the Philly area to pursue her graduate degree in mental health counseling. When the time came for Abby to pursue an internship, Mazzoni Center was a perfect match.
“I’ve always had a real passion about working to learn more about the specific health needs of the LGBTQ community,” she says.
Abby describe her experience working alongside the Trans Care team at 809 Locust Street as both an education and an inspiration.
“It’s been incredible,” Abby says, “Especially to see what trans care services is doing at Mazzoni, in building an informed consent model of care for patients, and honoring their autonomy as individuals who can make choices for themselves about their health and their identity.”
She says the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from Mazzoni colleagues Elaine Dutton, Lisa Phillips and Celena Morrison made the internship experience an exceptional one.
“I wanted to learn from the best, and I did,” Abby says.
As demand for our trans care program continues to surge, Abby was able to support team members Elaine and Lisa, so they could manage the busy schedule of new patient intakes.
A typical day for Abby involved meeting new patients for their intake appointments. She helped prepare gender marker change letters, drafting and getting them signed by a medical provider so that patients could access forms of legal ID to match their gender identity.
She also provided short term counseling for new patients who came in to start care with us, but were lacking in support from family or friends.
“Sometimes I was helping to get them connected to longer term counseling services or support groups, other times I was helping them to build coping skills,” she says.
Abby spent a lot of her summer responding to email queries - which come in from all over the country, and might range from a specific question from someone hoping to establishing trans care at Mazzoni to a message from someone coming out as trans for the very first time.
“Knowing that I might be the first person someone has disclosed that information to was remarkable,” she says. “It’s really been an honor to be on the receiving end of that.”
One person wrote to us from Las Vegas, saying they did not know of any trans-friendly providers in their area. Abby took the time to do some research, and was able to locate several endocrinologists who could help with prescribing hormones, and to pass the information along.
“There have been so many cool moments,” she says, looking back on her summer at Mazzoni. “But I think what’s been really encouraging is to see the families and friends who accompany patients for their intake visits, and who are really their cheerleaders.”
“About half of the patients who come in will say they don’t have support from their family, and you know it’s hard for them - but then the next person comes in with their mother, who says something like: ‘I’ve known since she was three years old that this is who she is, and I am so glad she is finally taking this step.’ So that has been really encouraging.”
One patient shared with Abby that he had been counting down for months until the day he could begin hormone treatment. “He told me he had post-it notes all over his wall, and was pulling one off for each day, as his appointment got closer,” she explains.
“When the moment finally came for him to get his prescription, he broke down crying in the office - so I started crying, too,” she laughs. “His mother was there with him, and she started crying as well. It was a scene.”
“It’s been amazing to be part of those moments that are life-changing for people,” Abby says.
When a person who has struggled with gender identity for years comes to a place like Mazzoni Center for care, and finds themselves in a supportive environment, Abby says it’s a powerful thing to witness.
“People just light up,” she says, when they realize “I can finally be who I’ve known myself to be all along.”