- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2016

Vanderbilt University’s student insurance plan will cover transgender-related surgeries starting this year, a move school officials hailed as creating a more inclusive environment for transitioning students.

Vanderbilt Vice Provost for Learning and Residential Affairs Cynthia Cyrus told The Tennessean that the change was made after a routine annual review of the university’s student health care plan.

“It was relatively noncontroversial on our side,” Ms. Cyrus said. “It was maybe a two-paragraph conversation, not deeply debated in any way.”

Vanderbilt’s plan already covered hormone therapy for transgender students for several years.

Dr. Louise Hanson, the director of the university’s student health center, said she brought the proposed change to the committee based on feedback from student patients.

“It came out of feeling limited in our ability to take full and complete care of our transgender students,” she told The Tennessean. “It really came out of our frustration.”

She said she spoke with multiple transgender students — some who could afford reassignment surgery and others who couldn’t.

“A line was drawn in the sand,” she said. “The haves and the have-nots.”

Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, director of the Program for LGBTI Health at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the costs would be minimal because of the small number of transgender people who actually pursue surgery.

Dr. Hanson estimated that student insurance would probably cover one or two operations per year.

“The challenge, and I think this is an important point, is figuring out what’s medically necessary for individual people,” he told The Tennessean.

According to a list kept by the nonprofit advocacy group Campus Pride, 71 universities across the country offer coverage for transgender-related surgeries, The Tennessean reported.

“I’m really proud of the Vanderbilt community for stepping up, for being on the side of its transgender students,” Rj Robles, a transgender graduate student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, told the paper. “It finally feels like we’re being celebrated, valued, respected, heard and seen.”

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