Interview: ‘This is about humanity and our role as health care providers’
Dr. Anne Koch, who is presenting two lectures at AAE17, received her DMD and Certificate in Endodontics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is founder and past director of the Postdoctoral Program in Endodontics at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and she maintains a faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine (endodontics) and is a senior fellow with Penn Medicine.
She serves as a member of the Board of Overseers for the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Koch is also the founder, co-developer, and past president and CEO of Real World Endo.
Throughout her career spanning more than 40 years, she treated more than 30,000 patients and delivered more than 1,000 lectures worldwide — all before undergoing gender confirmation surgery at the age of 63.
In an interview, Annie offers a preview of her presentations at the annual session of the American Association of Endodontists in New Orleans, and she shares some of her personal experiences and insights.
You are offering two presentations at AAE17 in New Orleans. Your first session is on bioceramic obturation. What can attendees to this session expect to learn about this topic?
The first session will trace the development of the bioceramic obturation technique beginning with glass ionomer (Ketac Endo) in 1991. This led to the development of Activ GP and ultimately, to the creation of EndoSequence BC Sealer. Naturally, I will fully discuss the properties of bioceramics that make it such a wonderful material for endodontics.
Your second presentation is on treatment of the transgender dental patient. What are the key points you will cover?
This presentation will address all the required aspects of care, beginning with a description of terms as well as how to create the proper office environment. This will lead to a discussion of the medical challenges these patients face and how they may affect their dental treatment. There will also be a comprehensive discussion of the various options that transgender patients have concerning “transition.” This will include surgical options.
As part of this presentation, will you also be weaving in insights from your own personal journey?
In addition to describing the various aspects of transgender dental care, I will examine the phenomenon of a gender transition through the eyes of a patient, as well as through the eyes of an experienced health care provider. There will be an extended question-and-answer session at the conclusion of the presentation.
This is a topic that doesn’t seem to have been offered at dental meetings until now. In your view, are transgender patients being underserved?
Transgender patients historically have been a marginalized group of patients. They have been underserved in all aspects of health care. However, as access to care improves for this group, we as dental providers need to know how to act in the most professional manner.
One might imagine you often run into compatriots who might not have seen you since before your own transition. Any personal anecdotes you can share?
Yes. I have a very good friend from Penn who is a dentist here in Massachusetts. At one of our local Boston meetings, I went up to him and said, “Hi Arthur!” I quickly realized that he did not recognize me, so I said, “Arthur, you know me.” He looked at me with a strange look and replied, “I do?” I said, “Errr, Dr. Koch!” He then responded, “Oh, I got it. You’re Ken Koch’s wife!” To which I replied, “No — not really!” We had a good laugh afterward. (He’s still a good friend.)
What is something people might be surprised to know about you?
Tennis is a big part of my life. Two years ago, I won the Northeast Regional Senior Women’s Tennis Championship (over 45 y/o). In the semi-finals, I beat the No. 1 player in the country 3 and 3! I did not play last year.
Where can a dental professional learn more about the transgender community?
One can obtain information from some of the medical center websites, such as the Transgender Center at Boston Medical Center (www.bmc.org/center-transgender-medicine-and-surgery) as well as UCSF (transhealth.ucsf.edu). Also, a great source of information is the Fenway Institute in Boston (fenwayhealth.org/care/medical/transgender-health).
Do you have anything you would like to add?
I recently completed a book for Rutgers Press, “It Never Goes Away: Gender Transition at a Mature Age.” When I transitioned, I had the unique opportunity to view the process through two different prisms. One was that of a patient, and the other was through the eyes of an experienced health-care provider. What I witnessed was at times both exhilarating and concerning. Over the past five years, the number of individuals describing themselves as transgender has simply exploded. As these individuals work their way into the healthcare system, I found myself wondering whether they were being treated properly and with dignity, and whether they were being told the truth. I decided to tell my story, as well as share information that I learned along the way. At the end of the day, this is about humanity and our role as health care providers.