The Gender Institute at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, which is part of the Dignity Health hospital system, performs gender transition surgeries. Saint Francis has a “LGBTQ Health Care Equality Leader” designation from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Dignity Health website page for Saint Francis describes it as “a secular hospital in a Catholic organization.”
Citing the compassion of the Sisters of Mercy who founded the hospital system, Dignity Health’s website page Caring Care for LGBTQ+ People and their Families states that the hospital system is “proud” to offer “care” to “LGBTQ+ people.” This “care” includes gender transition surgeries and surgeries for “gender-non-conforming” individuals.
In addition to genital destruction and construction, the surgeries offered by the Gender Institute include facial contouring, adjustments to brow and hairline, and adjustments to the voice box.
In an interview, Dr. Heidi Wittenberg, medical director of the Gender Institute, lamented that in 2015 when she first started transgender surgeries, her patients were older and their friends and families did not agree with their gender transitions. “We weren’t seeing the younger generation that had supportive parents.” Wittenberg is “devoted to helping people have the anatomy with which they should have been born.”
Wittenberg began practicing as an OB-GYN and then specialized in urogynecology before coming to her present position with the Gender Institute. “I’m now 100% focused on transgender, gender diverse and gender-non-conforming surgery. I feel like I have come full circle and I’m delivering new babies into the world.”
Dignity Health operates 24 Catholic hospitals and 15 not-Catholic hospitals but its website says that “the mission and values we were founded upon remain the same.” The Statement of Common Values for the whole organization says that elective abortion, in vitro fertilization, and physician-assisted suicide are not part of Dignity Health’s mission.
Dignity Health is a platinum sponsor, the highest level, of the “Trans March” in San Francisco and is “delighted to be part of it.”
– Exclusive story by Mary Rose