When Izzy Lowell moved from Massachusetts to Atlanta in 2013, the gender nonconforming physician noticed limited healthcare options for transgender people. The doctor is in.
After conducting the Gender Clinic at Emory, she sprung into action with her own office, called QMed, in 2017. The clinic provides affirming hormone therapy to trans and non-binary people. It’s based in Decatur but also offers telemedicine. Lowell and the staff also do pop-up clinics in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Lowell, who also practices medicine through Emory Healthcare, spoke with Q about growing up as a tomboy, what drove her toward medicine, and the birth of QMed.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in Concord, Mass., not far from Boston. I was a tomboy and loved to play in the woods. My great grandmother was a carpenter, so my grandmother knew how to use woodworking tools and taught me how to swing a hammer and cut with a saw. My mother loved animals. Over the course of my childhood, we had many pets including llamas, dogs, birds, chickens, rabbits, snapping turtles, a pig, hedgehogs, ferrets and a kangaroo.
What made you want to get into medicine?
A desire to help people and do something meaningful for myself and others. I know that sounds so generic, but that's really about it! Perhaps an even stronger motivation for me has been equality, standing up for those who have not been treated fairly. This originally led me to work with underserved and immigrant populations in Massachusetts, and now it shapes my work for the trans communities.
What led you to transgender healthcare?
Medical schools typically had a lecture or two on "LGBT health" but nothing about transgender people specifically or how to treat people with hormone therapy. I always wanted to serve the LGBTQ community, but I knew little about hormone therapy. So I attended conferences, read all the guidelines and worked with a doctor at the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia during residency to learn everything I could about hormone therapy.
When I moved to Atlanta, I started working at Emory, and there seemed to be no transgender patients. I knew that couldn't be true.
We just weren't serving the trans community properly, so I started the Gender Clinic at Emory in 2015, and once the word got out, patients started travelling from all over the Southeast to see me. I knew then that the need was much greater than anyone realized.
What’s been the response to QMed?
At first, I wasn't all that busy, which was a good thing because I had to learn how to run my own medical practice. But as more people learned about us and what we do, I think the access to hormone therapy, convenience and affirming care we provide speaks for itself, and we've been growing steadily!
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Hands down my favorite thing about my job is seeing the look of pure happiness on a person's face when I get to tell them they can start hormone therapy. For some people, this is a lifesaving treatment, and it is an honor to be able to provide it.
What drives you?
I am driven by equality. No one should be turned away by a medical provider because they are transgender, but this happens all the time — and much worse.
Conservative estimates suggest that 0.3-0.6 percent of the population is transgender. This is more common than Type 1 Diabetes! Yet medical providers are taught almost nothing about hormone therapy, and feel that it is OK to turn people away based on gender identity. No one would ever say "we can't treat you because you have diabetes."
I hope this becomes primary care soon and QMed is no longer needed, but until all patients are treated equally, [nurse practitioners] Michael Lucas, Chris Turner and I are trying to revolutionize care for transgender people in the South.
QMed is located at 215 Church St. in Decatur. Call 404-445-0350 or visit queermed.com. Photo by Russ Youngblood
This interview originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue here:
Pick up a new edition of Q magazine each week at LGBTQ and queer-friendly venues around town.