Building together

“Trans people are just people. They want and need health care just like everyone else.”

~Castiel Darling

Elijah and Castiel standing hand in hand.

Personal Experience Prompts Corvallis Volunteer to Help Others

In the past, Castiel Darling enlisted the help of others when preparing to visit the doctor.

Darling (they/them), of Corvallis, is transgender and non-binary.

“I felt like I had to bring people with me to defend me and make sure that I was being treated the way that I deserve,” Darling said.

Darling is disabled, suffers from ongoing chronic illnesses, and recently was diagnosed with diabetes. They couldn’t avoid medical care. So, despite facing discrimination and oppression in past medical visits, they kept searching for a doctor they could trust.

Darling has volunteered with the Gender Health and Community Network, an advocacy group of trans-affirmative providers serving as liaisons to increase access to health care and public services in Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties. That’s where Darling first heard about Olivia Danforth, MD, (she/her) a physician at Samaritan Family Medicine – Geary Street in Albany.

Dr. Olivia Danforth.

Maybe this time would be different, they hoped.

And it was.

“We’re going to take your health care into your hands and make sure that you’re a part of it,” Dr. Danforth assured Darling.

“It’s hard to put into words how affirming she is,” Darling said. “It feels like I am collaborating with her to meet my health needs. I’ve never felt like that with a doctor before.”

Having Dr. Danforth as their physician has been life changing. Darling is sharing their story about what it means to have a clinician who understands their needs with compassion.

Dr. Danforth’s clinical interests include LGBT health and gender-affirming care. Foremost, she wants every patient to feel safe.“One of the most powerful things I can offer is being someone patients can trust, no matter what they have going on in their lives,” Dr. Danforth said.

“I found someone who is willing to go to bat for me, someone in the medical community I can trust my life and concerns with.”

~Castiel Darling

Castiel and Elijah share a laugh as they walk through a local park.

Darling received hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgery.

“Without Dr. Danforth, I don’t think I would have tried. It wouldn’t have been attainable for me,” Darling said. “She championed the idea that I could take control of my health.”

After quitting physical therapy after a bad experience, Darling has started going again to a different provider after a nudge and referral from Dr. Danforth.

“I gave it another shot and was able to find a really affirming physical therapist,” Darling said.

Having Dr. Danforth as their physician seems “miraculous.”

“I have control over my health,” they said.

Castiel Darling standing outdoors and smiling.

With their newfound acceptance, Darling has become a greater advocate for the transgender community, volunteering with organizations that provide local connections and resources. Darling said that when trans people they know have a negative medical experience, they quit going to the doctor. Many are not getting the medical services they need.

That’s why Darling volunteers to help transgender people find compassionate care. Darling and their partner, Elijah Stucki (they/them), are involved with the Mid-Willamette Trans Support Network. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, Darling’s faith community, was crucial in developing the Trans Support Network, which provides safe spaces for transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people to gather, as well as public education. And Darling plans to participate in Samaritan’s new LGBTQIA2S+ Patient Advisory Council that is forming (see story below).

“Trans people are just people,” Darling said. “They want and need health care just like everyone else.”

A New Patient & Family Advisory Council Forms for LGBTQIA2S+

Building on the success of Samaritan’s Patient Advisory Councils that help to enhance services, a new group is forming in 2021.

A LGBTQIA2S+ advisory council will collaborate with other groups to support and cultivate an inclusive, patient-centered environment. The council will also guide initiatives to treat all people with respect and dignity, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The goal is to bring patient and family voices into our improvement work to improve patient care at Samaritan.

Patient advisory councils are part of Samaritan’s ongoing efforts to advance patient satisfaction. They provide feedback to clinicians and foster a better understanding of health care among patients and the community.

The idea for the new council grew from the work of an advisory council focus group that was consulted about using preferred names on hospital bracelets.

“The conversation was so fruitful, we wanted to expand on that, to extend and make it in-depth,” said Tasha Pendley, patient-family engagement coordinator. “People have provided such great feedback.”

Contact the Service Excellence Team to learn more.

Volunteer as a Patient Advisor

Our patient advisors are asked to serve one to two-year terms, attend periodic meetings, share patient and family perspectives and provide honest feedback. This commitment requires about 1-4 hours a month.

Anyone, age 18 or older, who has been a patient or has had a family member who was a patient at Samaritan  within the last three years is encouraged to apply. Other qualifications include the ability to listen and communicate well, look beyond personal health care experiences to assist others’ health and wellness needs, contribute productively, respect diverse perspectives and maintain patient privacy.  Contact us to apply.

Meet Olivia Danforth, MD

Dr. Danforth provides primary health care to patients of all ages. She provides gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy and supports patients seeking gender-affirming surgeries. Learn more about Dr. Danforth.

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