Dallas Ducar, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC, CNL, has been selected as the recipient of the Tim Porter-O'Grady Nurse Leadership Award. Dallas is the founder and CEO of Transhealth Northampton, a nonprofit and comprehensive health care center for transgender and gender-diverse individuals across Massachusetts. She is also on faculty at Columbia University, Northeastern University, University of Virginia School of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Nursing, and the MGH Institute for Health Professions.
Colleagues have described Dallas as being “full of energy and ideas” and “a highly effective leader.” The Foundation recently caught up with Dallas to learn more about her innovative health care clinic startup, how she’s advancing gender-affirming health care in her community and how she plans to expand its reach:
Q1. What was the catalyst for developing the health care clinic startup, Transhealth Northampton?
“Ever since I transitioned to my most authentic self, I have realized how profoundly broken the U.S. healthcare system is. As a transgender woman, I’ve been discriminated against, marginalized, and have had my most basic care needs dismissed and invalidated. I quickly learned how important it was for me to stand up for my rights, my beliefs, my identity, and those of my community. I began working as a nurse at the forefront of change to advance gender-affirming health care, a type of care that is currently under attack throughout the United States.
Rooted in a deep commitment to advocacy and clinical expertise in both gender-affirming care and interdisciplinary teams, I have focused on creating equitable, affirming, and empowering health care environments. Core to this has been the active desire to de-medicalize health care by empowering patients, creating more ethical systems, and restoring a community focus back to clinical care. This passion led me to co-develop and lead Transhealth Northampton, an independent and comprehensive health care center for transgender and gender-diverse individuals. Nurse-led and primarily staffed by registered nurses, Transhealth provides holistic and individualized care with sensitivity and compassion.”
Q2. How has your work at Transhealth Northampton impacted health equity and gender-affirming care in Massachusetts?
“Transhealth Northampton supports the training of nursing students at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Professions, Yale University, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, among other schools. We also train large amounts of social work interns and medical students. I also teach a course in the first certificate in professional achievement in “Transgender/Gender Non-Binary Health Care for Nurse Practitioners” at Columbia University. Through this work, we contribute to the growing, well-trained workforce on tap to meet the unique health care needs of transgender and gender-diverse patients.”
Q3. With this leadership award and recognition, how do you plan to grow and improve Transhealth Northampton services?
“I will apply to leadership and entrepreneurial programs to strengthen my expertise, build the future of affirming care, and enhance my ability to make a sustained impact within U.S. health care.
While Transhealth serves over 1,000 transgender and gender-diverse patients, it is still a startup and is early in the life cycle of organizational development. As we have grown, we are constantly evaluating our business model with a specific focus on developing a long-term strategy and addressing long-term needs. We are committed to being a smart organization that is able to scale to have an eventual national impact. To do this, we will need to continue to build strong foundations which allow for the continual acceleration and growth of our own model. The educational programs I endeavor to enroll in will be well-suited to advance my leadership development and provide the essential foundations I will need to lead Transhealth towards a brighter and sustainable future.”
Q4. Why is it important for nurses to influence health equity and gender-affirming care?
“A strong need exists for sensitive and knowledgeable health care, addressing the specific needs of our transgender and gender-diverse communities. The U.S. is experiencing increases in recorded gender diversity. As there is greater acceptance of gender diversity, it’s necessary for nurses and other health care professionals to be able to provide culturally competent and compassionate care. Nurses are particularly influential because they represent the first line of communication in a health care setting and often have a closer relationship with the patient. Nurses must be knowledgeable enough to answer questions and allay any health-related concerns. Access to gender-affirming care will save lives.”
Q5. You have written numerous op-eds. How do you see this work as advancing your advocacy and work in gender-affirming care?
“I have been an agent of change and have worked for this change by using my public voice. Much of my op-ed writing focuses on issues I am passionate about - nurse practitioner autonomy, affirming care, removing barriers to access, and widespread health care reform. I have authored over 45 op-eds within national and regional publications such as The Boston Globe, The Hill, Newsweek Magazine, and Scientific American. I also have been interviewed by numerous media outlets including NPR, the New York Times, the Today Show, MSNBC, and more. This advocacy has led various health care organizations such as Mass General Brigham, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and University of Virginia to consult with me, tour our health center, form relationships, and learn from Transhealth. I have also met with numerous local, state-wide, and federal politicians and advocates to make change as we lead the way to a brighter, more hopeful, model of care.”
This is the first award conferred in honor of American Nurses Association (ANA) 2020 Hall-of-Fame inductee and former chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees, Tim Porter-O’Grady, DM, EdD, ScD(h), APRN, FAAN, FACCWS. The Tim Porter-O’Grady Nurse Leadership Award comes with a $10,000 grant towards a leadership program of the recipient’s choice.
“I am very proud of Dallas and the outstanding work she has accomplished as a leader in the health care profession and within her own community. She is a shining example of inspirational nurse leadership and creativity for her groundbreaking work in helping us redefine what it means to provide gender affirming care to the transgender community. Cheers to Dallas and to a brighter, more inclusive, and equitable future,” said Tim Porter-O’Grady.