Gynecologists who treat men risk losing board certification

white lady gynecologist n a hospital hallway

Dr. Elizabeth Stier would risk losing her certification if she keeps working with (cisgender?) men. Photo credit: NY Times

In a surprisingly regressive move, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology has declared that OB/GYNs must only treat women if they plan on keeping board certification.

The New York Times reports:

Though most of her patients are women, Dr. [Elizabeth] Stier, who works at Boston Medical Center, also treated about 110 men last year, using techniques adapted from those developed to screen women for cervical cancer.

But in September, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology insisted that its members treat only women, with few exceptions, and identified the procedure in which Dr. Stier has expertise as one that gynecologists are not allowed to perform on men. Doctors cannot ignore such directives from a specialty board, because most need certification to keep their jobs.

With anal cancer incidence increasing – especially among HIV positive folks – gynecologists have been on the forefront of preventive screening. Much like cervical cancer, anal cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and screening is a new but promising technique for preventing illness and death. Anal cancer can affect people of all genders, and thus some gynecologists are now seeing (presumably cisgender) men who are at high risk as a preventive measure.

One thing remains unclear: where do trans folks fit into this equation? Even though the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology announced a couple years ago that OB/GYNs should prepare to treat transgender patients, it appears that the certifying board has given little thought to anyone existing outside of the gender binary, and I wonder how this will play out for trans men, trans women, and gender non-conforming people who are seeking preventive treatment for either cervical or anal cancers. I fear that this sort of decree from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology may further limit the access to care for trans and gender non-conforming folks, who, as it stands now, already face huge hurdles to accessing health care. In fact, on the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 19% of respondents reported having been refused care because of their gender identity, and 28% reported being subjected to harassment in medical settings, with even higher reported incidences of treatment refusal and harassment in trans communities of color.

There is no good reason why any physician should be barred from providing services they are qualified to provide. This decree is arbitrary, discriminatory, unnecessary, and dangerous to trans and gender non-conforming communities.


1bfea3e7449eff65a94e2e55a8b7acda-bpfullVerónica is an immigrant queer writer, domestic artist, and music video enthusiast.

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