Stories about: Norm Spack

Norman Spack: Saving transgender lives

SpackNorman_06In traditional Navaho culture, individuals with the physical or behavioral features of both genders are considered “two-spirited” and often arbitrate in marriage disputes because they’re trusted to see both sides of the story. In the broader American culture, though, identifying with a gender different from the one assigned at birth—what we call transgender—is not fully understood or accepted.

That’s changing—slowly. Recent cultural developments—including the rise of transgender characters in TV shows such as “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent” and the high-profile transitions of celebrities like Bruce Jenner, who is being interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC’s 20/20—have brought about a heightened interest and awareness of the transgender population and their journey towards acceptance.

That journey can be especially challenging for transgender teens and young adults, a population with a startlingly high rate of suicide attempts and mental health struggles. We sat down to learn more about transgender youth and adults from one of the leaders in the field, endocrinologist Norman P. Spack, MD, co-director (with Urologist-in-Chief David A. Diamond, MD) of the Gender Management Service (GeMS) program at Boston Children’s Hospital—the first of its kind in the nation.

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Studies explore gender identity and children

The journal Pediatrics released two studies this week that focused on the mental and physical wellbeing of children who don’t conform to typical gender roles.

The first study, led by Children’s Hospital Boston researcher S. Bryn Austin, ScD, indicates that kids who fail to adapt traditional gender stereotypes as children are at a significantly greater risk for physical, sexual and psychological abuse during childhood. These children are also more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in young adulthood.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Health and compiled data from almost 9,000 young adults. Participants were asked to recall their childhood experiences, including their favorite toys and games growing up. The types of charters they related to as children, which roles they adopted during pretend play and their earliest understanding of masculinity and femininity where all reported on as well. Researchers also asked participants to disclose information about any physical, sexual or emotional abuse they experienced at the hands of parents, other adults or older children. Finally, participants were screened for PSTD.

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Children’s makes the Top Doc list

Boston Magazine recently released its 2011 Top Doc list, made up of the best 650 physicians in the Hub. Seeing as Boston is home to some of the greatest medical minds on the planet, the list reads like a prestigious who’s-who roster of talent; a medical dream team spanning every aspect of treatment, from surgery to research and innovation.

Broken into 57 different specialties, doctors included on the list are voted for by fellow medical professionals, meaning that the Top Docs have not only gained the respect of the public and media, but of their peers as well.

Children’s Hospital Boston is proud to announce that over 10 percent of the entire list was made up of our staff, many of whom will be familiar to Thriving readers.

David Ludwig, MD, PhD

As director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital, David Ludwig, MD, PhD, is a respected leader in childhood obesity research and prevention, as well as a regular Thriving contributor and interviewee. In a recent post Ludwig explains why he supports legislation that would restrict the amount of junk food available through public assistance programs. For more blogs on Dr. Ludwig’s work, click here.

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In 2004 Children’s Chief of Cardiac Surgery, Pedro del Nido, MD, was the first person to use the da Vinci surgical robot to fix a defect in a child’s heart, using child-sized tools of his own design. Read about another family whose child was also saved by Dr. del Nido’s surgical expertise and steady hands.

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Mininder Kocher, MD, MPH

Mininder Kocher, MD, MPH, associate director of Children’s Division of Sports Medicine, helps many young athletes work through their sports related injuries. Most recently Dr. Kocher and one of his patients was featured on ABC World News, a segment that included a guest appearance by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

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David Hunter, MD, PhD

David Hunter, MD, PhD, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Department of Ophthalmology has spent years helping young people see better. In this recent blog post, Dr. Hunter weighs in on new research that indicates that the amount of time a toddler spends outside could have a direct, positive relationship on his developing eyesight.

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Children’s in the News: courageous Children’s family speaks with Boston Globe

The Boston Sunday Globe recently ran a cover story about a Children’s Hospital Boston family being treated at our Gender Management Services Clinic (GeMS). It was an in-depth and well-written piece about a family raising a transgender teenager and her treatment at Children’s. The GeMS Clinic is the first major program in the United States to focus on gender identity disorder in children and adolescents, a population who are often victims of bullying and harassment and have the highest rate of suicide attempts in the world. 

I highly recommend the Boston Globe article, as well as the following companion blog, in which the father of the family discusses why they chose to share their story with the world…

My wife Kelly and I have had a number of defining moments since our twin children came into our lives. Each has been special in it’s own way, but most of these moments have been things that all parents can relate to: birthdays, first days of school and teaching the kids to ride a bike. But our family has also seen our fair share of different experiences; experiences that have been both frightening and extraordinary. Even some things that seemed simple at first went on to have a level of complexity we never expected.

Since sharing our story, we’ve met so many special people that have helped Nicole and changed our family forever. When we met Dr. Norman Spack, at Children’s Gender Management Services Clinic (GeMS) it was the first time we felt hope that Nicole could one day achieve her dreams. During that first visit, he lifted a tremendous amount of fear and worry from our shoulders and the smile on Nicole’s face when she left his office will forever be imprinted in my memory. I am not ashamed to say that I had doubts at first, but in one visit Dr. Spack erased them and set my family on a wonderful journey.

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