LGBTQ health expert joins Thundermist Woonsocket location

LGBTQ health expert joins Thundermist Woonsocket location

WOONSOCKET – Thundermist Health Center has announced the addition of Dr. Tim Cavanaugh, a nationally-recognized leader in LGBTQ health who specializes in caring for transgender patients, to its Woonsocket location.

Cavanaugh, who began working out of the Woonsocket office last week, said that as a member of the center’s Trans Health Access Team, he will offer general primary care with an emphasis on serving members of the LGBTQ population. The center, he said, currently sees a little more than 500 patients from the greater region who identify as transgender.

“At Thundermist, part of the goal of my coming there is not just to improve on care of transgender patients, but of all LGBTQ patients,” he said. “The transgender care team has been working on trying to kind of improve the competency and skill of the whole system and of medical providers for a couple of years now.”

According to Cavanaugh, trans-specialized health care grew out of the need for a greater awareness among medical providers of issues facing the trans population, particularly those that could impact their medical care. While primary care for trans individuals does not differ significantly from primary care for any patient, he said trans individuals have historically had difficulty accessing the same level of care afforded to the rest of the population.

“What we’ve seen, especially in the past five years, is there’s historically been very, very little education and formal training for medical providers in LGBT care and specifically in transgender care,” he said, citing a 2015 survey that indicated most medical providers only receive an average of seven hours of training on LGBTQ health during four years of medical school.

“In the past five years, as I think transgender individuals and the transgender community has become more visible and sort of advocating for itself better in a social and political way, I think there’s been more demand for medical providers to step up and provide affirming care," he said.

Cavanaugh first came to focus on trans care about 10 years ago while working at Cranston’s Comprehensive Community Action Program. From there, he served as the medical director of the Transgender Health Program at Boston’s Fenway Health, one of the largest LGBTQ-focused community health centers in the country.

At Thundermist, he said he hopes to support the staff to continue to provide competent care to trans people and help the center expand its existing outreach to the trans community through programs such as yoga and swim classes and clinical support groups.

While he recognized the need for trans-focused care and more cultural competency training for medical and support staff, Cavanaugh said that ideally, he would like to see care for trans and other LGBTQ individuals no longer thought of as “specialty,” but considered a priority for all medical providers under the umbrella of primary care.

“That really has been my focus, to try to take this stuff out of the realm of specialty care and into the realm of primary care,” he said. “Ultimately, the goal is for them not to be viewed as a special population, but just as patients with particular concerns. They really just need good primary care, as we all do.”

Cavanaugh is a graduate of Dartmouth University. He completed his fellowship training in family medicine at the University of Virginia, and is a certified physician through the American Board of Family Practices.