As we near the end of our Inspiring Women Series of 2022, we’d like to introduce Dr. Kameryn Lee! Dr. Lee is the Founder and Principal of the new Radically Inclusive Consulting Collective, a consulting enterprise that focuses on health equity and medical justice for Black, brown, queer, transgender, and others pushed to the societal margins.
Tell us a little bit about the work you do.
So my background is in medicine. I am board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and fellowship-trained in minimally invasive GYN surgery. I practiced as a surgeon for 12 or 13 years and then started to add to my repertoire work related to health equity. I am a black woman of transgender experience, and because of my multiple intersections, I feel the need to be able to contribute, in a meaningful way, on a bigger scale. As you will understand, and as you will know, from just watching the news, health equity, medical justice is something that is in the limelight now that we have a different White House Administration. And those of us who are passionate about it are trying to make headway with regard to getting people more on the same plane. If COVID-19 taught us anything or showed us anything, it’s that there are gigantic disparities and health based on your skin color, based on your ethnicity, based on your sexual orientation, and gender identity. And, I sort of touch all of those pieces in my own life experience. And so, I decided to combine my life experience and professional experience and contribute in a different way. So that is how my work is progressing, now. The fellowship … through the American Medical Association, the medical justice and advocacy fellowship is, is brand new. I’m one of the inaugural fellows, out of 12. And through the fellowship program, we get the opportunity to be immersed in the issues that I’ve already highlighted. We’re recognized as physicians who are dedicated to this cause and are expected to be able to continue to lead the charge in the future. And so, I’m honored to have been chosen for that as well.
Can you give an example of how someone’s treatment might be different based on their race or gender identity?
In my own discipline of Obstetrics and Gynecology, we can look at maternal and newborn mortality rates. It’s been well documented, over and over, over the years that maternal mortality especially is increased in black women. And there could be a myriad of reasons for that, but the bottom line is that it is rooted in structural racism. As you will understand, that is something that’s very embedded into the very founding of our country. And so, we’re battling to try to change things. … If anybody’s just watched the news over the past two years, you have also had the opportunity to see inequities in what happens with COVID. Over the course of the pandemic, black and brown people were hit the hardest. There’s not as much press about it, but queer and transgender people were hit hard, as well. And, it’s not that any of us are biologically different, as some would like to believe or argue, but again, some of those same deep-seated structural racism issues contributed, and continue to contribute to that inequity. Unfortunately, that has gone on into vaccine availability, depending on what community you live in, for example. So, there are many examples that I can go into with regard to medical literature, social science literature, but if the average person would just open their eyes and look at the news they’re going to hear about it.
“We don’t have to be as concerned about what happens when we go to the emergency room …That’s a concern for many trans folks. It shouldn’t have to be that way.”
What’s something that you want people to know about the LGBTQ+ community and the unique challenges this group faces in healthcare?
The main thing to understand about those of us who live under that alphabet umbrella is that we’re the same as anybody else. We work, we pay taxes, we’re parents, we’re partners, we work across the spectrum from those jobs that don’t require a lot of education to those that require the most education. So, we’re no different than anybody else. … Once you look at LGBTQ people, as a whole, nobody is discriminated against more than black trans women. Nobody is hurt more. When I say hurt, I mean physically hurt and murdered more than black trans women. So, I’m, pushed to the edge, degrees or not. And, I wouldn’t choose to live at the margin. … In terms of healthcare, a lot of the issues that we face, with regard to health inequity, stemmed from lack of education, on the part of healthcare providers… If you’re not taught, then you don’t know. And, every single body/board is guilty of not providing enough education as it relates to LGBTQ+ people, especially trans people. Despite the advances that we’ve made with regard to trans folks, the majority of physicians who finish medical school haven’t had any exposure to trans patients. … And so, part of my goal, and mission and vision, is to be able to help to figure that out, so that people like me, don’t have to educate their medical providers about themselves. I’ve had to do that and I’m in medicine. We don’t have to be as concerned about what happens when we go to the emergency room, or when we have to go to urgent care. That’s a concern for many trans folks. It shouldn’t have to be that way. [So,] helping to educate healthcare providers, on every level, is going to be one way that we get over that hump.
“I define success as having influenced, in a positive way, the life of just one person”
How do you define success?
Personally, I define success as having influenced, in a positive way, the life of just one person. If I have done that, over the course of my life, then then I’m successful. And I know that in terms of practicing medicine and surgery I’ve been able to do that. So, if I didn’t make another dollar in my life, if I was bedridden for the rest of my life, my life has been successful. There are people who were able to be better people, because of how I was able to apply my own education, faith, and compassion.
“ I know that I have something to say. I know that I have something to give.”
Can you tell us about a turning point, career or personal, and how you pushed through it?
I think, for me, something that I became aware of—I’m gonna say over the past three or four years—is that I sort of found my voice. That voice was always there, but I didn’t always use it. And so, the turning point was the decision to not only be able to affect life, one patient at a time, but to also be able to use my voice, professional experience and life experience, to be able to affect many people at a time. And that is a turning point because in medicine we see one person at a time. We operate on one person at a time, and that’s a good thing. Everybody wants time with their doctor, everybody wants a surgeon, that’s really careful. But, I realized that not only can I do that, I can do something else. And … that was a turning point, because at that time, and now, I’m having to figure out, “Okay, well, how do I do that?” I know that I have something to say. I know that I have something to give. And so, now there’s going to end up being a balance between that love of taking care of people, one patient at a time … but also having lots of people be able to hear me say, “Hey, how this group of people is getting treated is not right and we have to change it”. That group of people could be women, that could be black people, brown people, LGBTQ people, trans women. There are inequities everywhere, and somebody has to say something. Many have, many continue to, and I want to be able to join those ranks as well.
If you could go back and share some wisdom or guidance with your younger self. What would that be?
There are several versions of that younger self that I would step back and talk to. But, I would go all the way back to that young kid who thought that they were abnormal, an abomination, and I would tell [myself] that “You’re made perfectly just the way you are”. It took me a long time to be able to believe that and understand that, and accept that even when others told me that. But, I spent a lot of time as a kid, as a teenager, young adult, thinking otherwise. Thinking that I’m not made perfectly, that I’m not made in God’s image, and I am. And, understanding that, knowing that, feeling that, putting it in my heart, changed my life and changed my outlook. And that same message that I would tell myself is the same that I would tell every other young trans and gender non-binary young person today; that you’re perfect, just the way you are. Regardless of what your parents say, regardless of what the governor of your state says, regardless of what the pastor says in the pulpit, you’re made in God’s image and you’re perfect just the way you are.
Nominated by Sarah Matthews
Dr. Kameryn Lee has done amazing work with Folx Health – an online LGBTQ+ Healthcare organization providing gender-affirming care including hormone therapy and PrEP. As a self-described unicorn of sorts (Black female trans physician), she is always looking for ways to advance the cause of gender-diverse folks. Dr. Kameryn Lee is passionate about racial, LGBTQ (especially TGNB), and health equity issues.
Why Dr. Kameryn Lee is On this List
“Dr. Kameryn is incredibly inspiring. From the challenges she has faced just to be her own authentic self to the work she has done in the field and medicine and health equity, I can’t think of a better person for this series.”
See More 2022 Inspiring Women
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