Guest speaker discusses transgender nutritional needs


By: Katherine Gentry
Creative Services Student Writer

PHOTO: Zachary Breeding with JMU students

On Saturday March 17, dietitian Zachari Breeding came to James Madison University to speak to faculty and students about nutritional considerations for the transgender community. Emily Wagener, a dietetics student who attended the event, said, “I went because we don’t really talk about it. It was a very good opportunity that we wouldn’t really get anywhere else just because it’s new and unique. It was good to get to hear from someone who had such experience and knowledge in a very specific area.”

According to dietetics professor Jeremy Akers, “There are many nutritional considerations for this population. When someone is on hormone replacement therapy, there are a lot of metabolic events that happen at this time and there is a risk for cardiovascular disease and hypertension amongst other diseases. There is also the sensitivity of the situation. First and foremost, we want them to be healthy. We want to make sure that we are very sensitive to their identity and keep them coming back so we can make them healthy.”

The event was intended to both educate students about a different aspect of dietetics and raise their awareness of the transgender community. Akers elaborated, “Our goal is for students to understand efficacious care and to also understand the complexities of care, not only in a clinical setting, but in a cultural setting as well. They need to know how to treat different communities and be advocates for all groups and communities. They need to be inclusive of these groups and be an advocate for more research on the nutritional care for all different students.”

Wagener noted that the event provided a new perspective with increased sensitivity to the issue. “The real takeaway was letting go of biases and caring about people. It opened my eyes to the fact that we need to take care of them as people and provide them a safe space and make sure we treat them the same as anyone else. Having that exposure is very important.”  

According to Akers, the event came as a response to students’ interest in the complexities of health and the transgender community. Akers said, “It’s something that a majority of individuals have not really thought about. It’s a health risk and our goal is to make everyone healthier. It’s important to understand the complexities of the transgender community and how to handle it.

We need to make sure that we’re providing appropriate care.”

Published: Monday, April 9, 2018

Last Updated: Monday, April 9, 2018

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