ETSU Quillen College of Medicine faculty receives Lifetime Achievement Award for transgender research

Brandon Paykamian • Oct 19, 2018 at 10:58 PM

Dr. George Brown, an associate chairman for Veterans Affairs and an East Tennessee State University Department of Psychiatry professor, has received the highest honor in his field for his research and work with transgender patients. 

Brown, who has served as an ETSU faculty member for 25 years, received the Lifetime Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health for making important contributions to the knowledge and quality of care in transgender health. 

Brown’s research

Brown served 12 years in the United States Air Force as a psychiatrist and worked with transgender active duty service members and with transgender veterans during his 30 years of active clinical work and research in the area of gender dysphoria. In his research, he often focused on health care disparities between transgender and cisgender patients.

“The first patient I ever interviewed as a 20-year-old medical student was a transwoman who had had sex reassignment surgery and was an Army veteran. In 1979, there was no internet, no Wikipedia, and little had been researched on this topic. I decided to devote a big part of my career to understanding gender dysphoria, in spite of contrary advice from my mentors,” Brown said.

His extensive research since then has also been featured in publications on transgender topics for over 30 years, and he has presented his original research findings at nearly every WPATH Scientific Symposium since 1987. Brown has published more than 150 articles and abstracts, as well as 24 book chapters on transgender health care issues.

Breaking new ground

Brown developed the largest study ever on transgender health issues and was the first clinician to establish a clinic for transgender veterans at the Mountain Home Veterans Affairs Medical Center. It was the first of its kind in the country. 

“My research started back when I was in active duty in the military and continued after the first Gulf War, when I moved to Johnson City to work with the VA and ETSU. When I came here in 1992, I wanted to open the first clinic for transgender veterans in the U.S.,” he said.“To my surprise, they said, ‘That’s great.’

“So I did that. I opened the first one here at Mountain Home.”

Through the years, Brown has met with thousands of transgender patients and has poured through patient data from 1996 to now. 

“With the access to the databases, I was able to help develop the largest database on transgender health care issues ever constructed in the world,” he said. “And that was over 5,135 veterans who had gender dysphoria.”

What to take away from Brown’s research: the need for equity 

“People who are transgender often lead very difficult lives full of discrimination and nonacceptance and that type of life leads to bad health care outcomes, so one of the main findings of my work is the tremendous amount of disparities,” he said. “The health disparities are very significant.”

Brown said the recent honor, which he will accept at a Nov. 6 ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina, means a lot to him. He said he hopes his research will help reduce disparities in health care and lead to more acceptance for transgender individuals. 

“Transgender people are born and not made, and it’s not a choice,” he said. “It is a very difficult life no one chooses.”


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