By Kathy Walsh
DENVER (CBS4) – For one week in May, a surgeon at Denver Health is learning a new procedure. He is being taught gender reassignment surgery, male to female.
Denver Health is preparing to become the only hospital in Colorado, and one of a select few in the country, to offer the surgery.
CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh was allowed to observe the training. The procedure is complicated and challenging. Step by step, the surgeons changed a biological male to female.
The operating room at Denver Health was a classroom. Dr. Chris Carey was learning from Dr. Marci Bowers of California. Gender reassignment surgery is Bowers’ specialty. Her services at her California clinic are in demand.
“We have a four-plus year waiting list for patients just to get in for surgeries,” she explained.
Marci was once Mark. A few years after her own gender reassignment surgery, she moved to Trinidad, Colorado to study the procedure.
“I took over from a legend, Dr. Stanley Biber,” she explained.
Biber was internationally renowned as the dean of gender reassignment surgeries. During the 70s, 80s and early 90s, Trinidad became known as the “sex change capital of the world.”
Bowers was Biber’s protégée.
She became the first transgender woman to perform reassignment procedures. At this time, she has performed 1,800.
“Dr. Bowers is the unquestioned leader is this type of surgery,” said Carey, Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Denver Health.
And providing access to the highest quality health care for patients, including transgender patients, is part of the mission of Denver Health.
“Many of them have been waiting their entire lives, as long as they can remember, for these types of surgeries. It’s life changing for them,” said Carey.
Now a trainee, Carey’s goal is to eventually train other surgeons.
“We already have approximately 100 patients that are in our system now who are candidates for surgery,” he explained. “To see how happy they are to finally get the care that they need is gratifying.”
Starting in July, Denver Health plans to offer one or two male to female gender reassignment surgeries a week. The hospital anticipates the need to expand as word spreads about this new service.
In 2017, Denver Health created the LGBT Center of Excellence. This new division is dedicated to helping all LGBTQ+ people find open, affirming, and competent care and access to all the services they need.