Transgender and Gender Expansive Health Care Services
Columbia Health offers a number of services for transgender and gender expansive students. Explore the links below for more information, including how to access each service.
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Transgender and Gender Expansive Team
The Transgender and Gender Expansive Team (TGET) is a group of interested Columbia Health administrators and clinicians from a number of different departments that meets regularly to coordinate and improve services for transgender and non-binary students.
Role: Transgender and Gender Expansive Team Leader, Staff Psychologist (CPS)
About: Dr. Kori Bennett enjoys working in collaboration with their fellow TGET Team members/Columbia Health colleagues in supporting students who are exploring gender and/or considering options for affirming care. As a clinician, Kori works from an identities-affirming, trauma-informed framework that values each person’s unique self-understanding and self-determination, creativity, resiliency, and definition of community.
Self-care: Kori enjoys hanging with friends/family (of choice & origin), reading/writing, creating, running outside, and indulging in extremely low budget movies from the 80s/90s.
Role: Transgender and Gender Expansive Team Medical Coordinator, Associate Director, GHAP, Tobacco Cessation Counselor
About: Daniel Chiarilli meets with students interested in learning about or starting gender-affirming hormone therapy at Columbia Health. He has worked closely with students around sexual health and sexuality at GHAP and has appreciated the opportunities offered by the TGET to expand the scope of his work to include gender diversity.
Self-care: Daniel likes to spend time with his boyfriend, read novels, watch movies and appointment tv, listen to and play music, and go running on weekends (although he hated gym class in high school and got a “D” the final quarter of his senior year).
Role: Staff psychiatrist (CPS)
About: Dr. Kwame Akowuah is pleased to be a member of the Transgender and Gender Expansive Team. He believes that mental health treatment works best when the approach is one of collaboration built on trust and understanding. His approach is not to focus solely on the concerns that led the other person to come and see him, but instead to try understand their lives, community, concerns, and strengths in a whole and nuanced way. This makes it more likely that he will be able to provide advice and recommendations that can be of the most help to the other person, while also aligning with their values and priorities. However, since it is also true that it can be very hard or even scary to open up to someone you have just met, he believes in moving at whatever pace makes the other person most comfortable.
As part of his medical training, Kwame pursued a fellowship in Psychiatry and the Law. One of the many things that he carried away from that experience was a deeper historical understanding of how the right to self-determination regarding one’s physical and mental health care was something that was hard won over many years of struggle, and must be treated with respect at all times.
Self-care: Kwame is an avid soccer fan and enjoys watching it immensely, especially Liverpool FC and the US Women’s National Team. He also enjoys science fiction, listening to and playing music. He listens to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks.
Role: Clinical Social Worker (CPS)
About: Julia Perault Fletcher is a clinical social worker and LGBTQ-affirming therapist committed to clinical and case management work that enriches the lives of folks who have been marginalized because of their gender identity or expression, sexual identity and sexual practices. Her style is warm, interactive and analytical. At CPS, she connects students to wellness and healing resources on and off campus that best fit their unique needs. In particular, Julia is committed to clinical and outreach efforts aimed at reducing barriers for pathways to parenthood and supporting the unique fertility challenges experienced by the LGBTQ community on individual and structural levels.
Self-care: To nurture her own self-care, Julia enjoys cooking, hiking, mindfulness meditation, playing board games, and singing and dancing to musical soundtracks.
Role: Staff Psychologist (CPS)/Eating Disorders Team Member
About: Dr. Renee Gibbs joined the TGET team in 2020 after nine years of transgender advocacy and transgender care development in the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. She enjoys working with multi-disciplinary teams to provide wrap-around care for individuals in any stage of gender identity development and gender affirmation. Her goal in working with clients has been as an advocate to reduce barriers in healthcare disparities for obtaining high quality care. Dr. Gibbs additionally specializes in the treatment of eating disorders and body image concerns and has experience in addressing these concerns in trans and LGBQ clients.
Self-care: Dr. Gibbs devotes her time outside of work to her toddler and partner and enjoys physically active hobbies such as running, argentine tango, and globetrotting as much as possible.
Pronouns: she/her/hers, they/them/theirs
Role: Clinical Social Worker (CPS)
About: Wardeh is a clinical social worker at CPS who works from a trauma-informed approach. Wardeh is dedicated to providing affirmative care from a cross-cultural perspective for gender expansive folks. Wardeh combines spirituality, existentialism, and attachment-based theories in working with students struggling to integrate their different identities.
Self-care: Wardeh enjoys solving jigsaw puzzles (500 pieces or less) before two beloved house cats knock them off the table. When it is not too hot out, Wardeh prefers running half-marathon races in major cities (followed by enjoying the best knafeh in those destinations). Wardeh also likes to watch movies in theaters (especially horror films).
Role: Staff Psychologist (CPS)
About: Dr. Motoni Fong Hodgers is a staff psychologist dedicated to providing clinical care and support that is affirmative and culturally sensitive. She is also a member on the Trauma Team at CPS and is committed to ensuring that individuals receive care in a safe, non-judgmental, and empowering setting. Trained as a psychoanalyst, Motoni is comfortable providing both short- and longer-term psychotherapy, as well as serving as an advocate on behalf of students. Students have often described Motoni's style as "calming, warm, and sensitive."
Self-care: Camping, exploring new beaches, enjoying a good cup of coffee, dog sitting (and spoiling them) for friends
Role: Assistant Director (Insurance Office)
About: Stephanie Jennings believes in empowering students to become informed health insurance consumers. Much of her work with students and staff focuses on relationship-building and problem-solving. Her role on the team is to provide information and support to students seeking both on and off-campus health services. Stephanie’s unique educational background of adult education, leadership, and conflict resolution enables her to think of creative pathways to obtaining care for marginalized students. Stephanie’s ultimate goal is to aid students in achieving academic success as they seek gender affirming health care services with compassion and a sense of humor.
Self-care: Stephanie enjoys following pop culture and never misses an episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Pronouns: she/her/hers/Her Highness
Role: Staff Psychiatrist (CPS)
Dr. Regina Lara believes in collaborative care, and expects you to be an active member of your treatment team. While she believes medications can be helpful and sometimes necessary, she also emphasizes the importance of lifestyle practices in promoting well-being. Trained as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, Regina draws frequently on attachment theory and the need for good-enough relationships. She proudly identifies as a Filipina-New Yorker and after 25 years in this city cannot conceive of a better place to call home.
Self-care: Regina actively denies the existence of horror movies and avoids them at all costs. She is an indulgent and permissive dog owner, whose favorite self-care routine is daily morning meditation with her French Bulldog, Ludwig, snoring and drooling on her lap.
Role: Health Services Coordinator (Medical Services)
About: Tonia Lesesne has been committed to everything Columbia Health since 1991.
Self-care: Napping. Tonia’s happy place is listening to rap music. Believe it or not it keeps her centered and soothes her soul.
Role: Assistant Nurse Manager
About: Myriam Marques is a primary care nurse with a strong background in community health care and Public Health. She has enjoyed a decades-long passion for working with LGBTQ+ health as a nurse and educator. Myriam started working with the queer community in the 90’s in her native Brazil. After moving to New York City, she was part of the team that started the first Transgender Care program in town. As she likes to point out, providing care for transgender patients has been a beautiful, soul-enriching journey, the best part of which is learning from her patients on their experiences and culture. In her past experiences, she had created many classes and works shops on TG general care including on self-care, medications, surgeries. As a nurse, her focus is to ensure that each patient is heard, respected and well-informed in every decision about their healthcare.
In her work as a human rights activist with a special interest in sexual and reproductive rights, Myriam participates in several media and educational projects. She is a proud member of the Reclaim Pride Coalition in New York and is very happy to work for Columbia students as a member of TGET.
Self-care: Myriam loves walking, biking, hiking, gardening, dancing, playing capoeira, hanging out with friends and also quiet activities, such as meditation and praying.
Role: Family Physician (Medical Services)
About: Dr. Dawn McAllister is a dedicated family physician who strives to attend to the wholeness of each of the students she sees. In particular, she provides hormone therapy for gender expansive patients. She worked as an Assistant Professor for years at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, caring for patients and teaching medical students and residents. As someone who has identified as androgynous since her early teens, she feels that transgender and gender expansive ways of understanding all people are liberating for all of us. She is happy to have the honor of participating in the medical care of people who choose this gender-expansive path. She is a cis-woman who is a lesbian and was married for 24 years. She has three sons who are now 19, 17 and 13 years old. She had her oldest son by birth and her younger two sons by adoption from Ethiopia. Dr. McAllister comes from a working class family in Ohio and hopes that her background and compassion help to make her a medical provider who is accessible, competent and kind.
Self-care: Dr. McAllister often goes trail running with her dog, a Labradoodle named Rosie, off-leash in the woods near her home in Hastings-on-Hudson. She loves the city and also, the peace of outdoors. She enjoys fixing things, cooking, hiking and her three sons. She typically meditates sporadically but has been doing it nearly every day for two weeks now. Let’s see if that continues. Taking care of yourself if not always easy.
Role: Physician (Medical Services)
About: Dr. Rick O’Keefe is a family physician who has been working with the queer and gender expansive community in NYC since 1987. Rick works with students interested in hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgeries. He brings a patient-centered and holistic approach to his work with students, proposing that wellness is the integration of mind, body, spirit, community, and emotion. Rick believes in partnering and learning with patients to provide resources and care that best suit their needs.
Along with his TGET role, Rick is Medical Advisor for the Gay Health Advocacy Project (GHAP). He also co-founded the Health Outreach To Teens (HOTT) program with the Callen-Lourde Community Health Center, providing mobile medical services to youth in street settings.
Self-care: Rick enjoys journaling, long walks, meditation, and spending time at his farm with his husband.
Role: Post-doctoral Fellow (CPS)
About: Dr. Elmira Raeifar is a post-doctoral fellow dedicated to creating an open space for self-exploration. She strives to co-create a dynamic curiosity to make meaning of difficult life experiences and move toward a deeper sense of freedom and sturdiness in oneself.
Self-care: Elmira enjoys exploring NYC’s food scene and running in the city.
Role: Registered Nurse (Medical Services)
About: Veronica Rivera is registered nurse that is collaborating with the Transgender and Gender Expansive Team to improve care for all students seeking treatment at Medical Services. She enjoys teaching students how to administer testosterone medication. She is also a certified S.A.N.E nurse and provides treatment options for those who have been sexually assaulted.
Self-care: Veronica loves to relax by reading books, meditating, practicing metaphysics, and watching classic horror movies. Her favorite horror movie is The Thing.
Role: Assistant Director (Alice! Health Promotion)
About: Katie Wilkinson enjoys being a part of the Transgender and Gender Expansive Team to work collaboratively and take an integrative approach to supporting students of all identities who seek care with Columbia Health. As a health promotion professional, Katie hopes to help build capacity among students as they seek to inform decisions about their own health and to foster a campus community in which health and well-being for all members is a priority.
Self-care: Katie spends her free time baking vegan treats, learning fiber crafts (knitting, crochet, sewing), basking in the nostalgia of late 90’s/early 2000’s teen drama TV shows, and enjoying friends and family, including her husband, Matt, and canine companion, Buck.
Role: Senior Staff Psychologist (CPS)
About: Dr. Addette Williams works with the Transgender and Gender Expansive Team to support students in exploring options and accessing gender-affirming care. As she is also a member of the Trauma Team, Dr. Williams is attuned to the myriad ways that folks with marginalized identities may experience trauma, and she has a particular interest in the mental health of people of color.
Self-care: Addette enjoys sweating in hot yoga or a sauna, meditation, searching for colorful vegetables at farmers' markets, reading, and knitting socks.