Growing up, Dr. Ivan Abdouch had no intention of being a doctor. He wanted to be a mechanic, then explored college majors, but plans changed when his grandfather had a heart attack and was not expected to survive.
Ivan rushed to the hospital and prepared to say goodbye. He remembers the moment a doctor entered the room and saved his grandfather, who went on to live another 30 years. Ivan found his way to medical school after that, where he met another doctor who changed his life.
“I didn’t consider being a family doctor until I got sick in med school,” he says. “The guy doing student health was a family doctor, and when he walked into the room, I just felt better. And I thought, I’d like to be like that guy.”
“He had an air about him that you just knew you’re gonna be okay.”
Ivan never forgot that feeling, and he wants every family to feel cared for the way that he felt in the student health center. That’s one reason why after 42 years in medicine, Ivan is working with Do No Harm to preserve trust in medicine and speak out on gender ideology and minors.
Ivan worked with transgender patients for three decades in Omaha, Nebraska, long before it became popular to do so. He served as the medical director of the Omaha Gender Identity Team, which provided multidisciplinary services including psychiatry, psychology, social services and other allied professionals. The team was extremely thorough and selective in choosing which patients to treat.
“Maybe one or two out of every 10 adults passed through our evaluation as being transgender,” Ivan says. “The rest had other psychological or emotional issues that needed to be managed.”
Patient claims of transgenderism were not simply taken at face value. But as years passed, Ivan witnessed a radical shift toward a patient-led diagnostic approach along with tremendous physician bias and misinformation.
“I can’t think of any other condition in medicine where we treat someone just because they say they have it. When a patient walks in and says, ‘I think I have cancer’ we don’t just start them on chemotherapy. When they say ‘I think I have diabetes’ we don’t hand out insulin. Why are we doing this with transgenderism? I believe the condition is real, but just because people claim they have it, doesn’t mean they have it.”
Ivan began to feel that requests for treatment were becoming trendy. “It’s the reason I got out of the practice,” he says. “Although I was allowed to provide care for these individuals in my faculty position at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the diagnosis and management of gender identity disorder was highly unpopular and even questioned by my colleagues. I gave a couple of lectures about it to the residents and faculty back in the late 1990s-early 2000s, but then I was told to stop because it was too controversial and unfounded. Fast forward to the present. The University of Nebraska Medical Center decided to offer transgender medicine—not only to adults, but to children. It felt to me like a commercial enterprise; highly publicized, highly marketed. Meanwhile, my patients are saying, ‘We don’t want all of this attention, we just want to blend in, to be with our families and living our lives.’ They told me that all the marketing, advertising, and publicity were making it increasingly difficult for them to blend in, and it was that circus act that made me say, you know, this isn’t what it’s supposed to be. I’m not going to be a part of it.”
Never once did his practice consider treating children. “We would offer counseling and support to help them through whatever issues were going on, but we wouldn’t even consider any sort of transgender management on a child. That would just be unheard of,” he says.
The rise in gender procedures on children is what motivated Ivan to step out of retirement and speak out. He made his concerns known in an op-ed for the Nebraska Examiner, and consulted with state legislators as they passed a bill banning gender-switching procedures for kids under age 19, and limiting hormone therapy and puberty blockers for kids in the same age range.
In his opinion piece, Ivan notes that even one of the most cited authorities for transgender care, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, admits in its own Standards of Care that there’s no way to predict a child’s gender evolution and some may regret switching.
It also warns the long-term developmental effects of these early interventions are still unknown. “Gender-affirming interventions pose particular risks to children and adolescents,” he writes. He continues on to describe the specific health risks in detail. You can read them here.
“What scares me most is the irreversibility of it all, and people are taking it so lightly. Yes, there may be some children who will go on into adulthood and transition. But in my experience, very few of these kids are going to end up being transgender adults. Yet, in starting this process, the damage is already done. It’s mistreatment in my book,” Ivan says.
He urges other doctors to educate themselves on the risks of gender-switching procedures on children before it’s too late. Like the family doctor Ivan met in college, these doctors also have young patients who are trusting them to keep them safe.
“If people don’t know anything and they trust the person that’s talking, they’re gonna go along with it. That’s what happens with parents and children. They assume the doctor is trustworthy and knowledgeable and knows what they’re doing,” Ivan warns.
“Don’t just go along to get along. When doctors are fanning the flames of transgenderism, my question to them is, what’s your experience in this? Do you have any idea what you are really supporting? If you don’t have experience with it, talk to somebody who does, to get your feet on the ground in terms of true knowledge of what you’re talking about.”
“Remember, these are children who are going to be affected for the rest of their lives. You’re going to have a difficult, if at all possible, time of correcting what you’ve created there.”
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