meet Patrick Pitoni
Patrick is the Manager of our Transgender Center of Excellence. We sat down and asked him questions to get to know him better!
Q: How did you first get involved in Trans care?
A: Prior to Trillium Health, I worked at the University of Rochester for about six years in behavioral health, and before that I was in the business world. I really liked health care and when an opening came up at Trillium, I thought it would be a great opportunity to help other people in the community. I like going home at the end of the day knowing that I've helped a lot of people and it's rewarding.
Q: What is it like working at Trillium Health?
A: The nice thing about Trillium is that we meet people where they are. There's no judgment here. You know, I've had friends who have had bad experiences within the health care system. They went to providers that didn't know anything about Trans care, and they were judged and they had to educate the provider. And that's the last thing you want to do when you're a patient - educate your provider. We have a really, really awesome Transgender Center of Excellence program. It's the only one like it in the area. We started out with about 200 patients four years ago, and we now have over 1,200 patients. It's amazing how much it's grown.
Q: What are some of the barriers that patients have faced before they came to Trillium, and how does Trillium treat them differently?
A: One of the biggest barriers is insurance. Some people don't have insurance when they first come to Trillium. But here they can set up an appointment with an insurance navigator, and get help finding the best insurance they can. And it's a free service. Our patients don't have to stress about not being able to pay their medical bills. That's a huge barrier at other places.
The other barrier that many people face is the judgment or the lack of education they get from providers. At Trillium, we take care of the whole person the moment they walk through our doors. We've had patients come in and say that they've gone to other providers and they've given them hormones on the first visit and said, "I'll see you back in a year." That's not the case here. We consistently do blood work every three months. We really keep track of a person. And I feel like we give the best care possible.
Q: How do you want a patient to feel when they leave an appointment with you?
A: I want them to feel like they were understood and heard. I do a lot of listening when I'm in patient intakes. I don't go down a list of generic questions and call it a day. I want them to leave the room knowing that I understood and I listened and I heard them. We have a lot of patients that come in that are new to Rochester from college. So it's the first time they've been away from home. I'm the first person they see, or our Trans care coordinator. We're the first people they talk to about Trans care because they didn't feel comfortable talking about it at home. So here they are in a new city, they're young, and they're nervous. So the best thing I can do for them is try and put them at ease and let them know that they can tell me whatever they want to tell me, and nothing more.
Q: Do you remember when you first became interested in a career in the medical field?
A: Early in my career I was working at Strong in the Behavioral Health Unit, and then when I went back to business and I felt like something was missing. I felt like something was tugging me to go back to health care. It's almost like I had a purpose and I couldn't figure out what it was. So when I saw the opening at Trillium, I felt like it was for me.
Something I haven't talked about in this interview is the fact that I'm Transgender. There was no help for me 25-30 years ago. There were about five people I knew in the whole upstate area, so I kind of got through it on my own. I was young and I did the best I could, but I want to make it as easy as possible for people now. So there's a personal investment for me. I understand how people are feeling when they walk in. I may not understand all of it, but I understand the Trans part of it. They don't feel comfortable in their own body. And I was not happy for years. And then when I transitioned, I was so happy, and I've been happy ever since. I'm happy to let young people know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
After seeing a few patients the first couple of weeks, I realized how nervous they were, thinking, "Here's this white, cisgender, straight guy walking in, and he doesn't understand what I'm going through. What does he know about Trans care?" I've met with people who were physically shaking, and I felt bad. I'd ask them why they were so nervous, and they would say, "Well, I thought you were a white cis guy judging me." As I started to tell patients that I was Trans, they calmed right down, and their whole demeanor changed. It's been so rewarding. There's a reason I'm here. Even if it's just to help people know that they can be happy someday. So that's why I'm in health care.