Jerrica Kirkley: Radically Affirming Healthcare for >50% of U.S. Trans People

Jerrica Kirkley

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become empathetic entrepreneurs. This series features interviews with founders working on SDG 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing by a character named Spiffy. Health is on a lot of our minds these days, so let’s see what’s being done!

Hi folx, it’s good to see you again! My name is Spiffy, I’m an interplanetary journalist back after a hiatus. Last month I spoke to 16 entrepreneurs making waves in education. This month, it’s all about health. As my friend Reva McPollom says, health impacts everything. Today, I’m interviewing Jerrica Kirkley, MD & Co- Founder of Plume.

Spiffy: Howdy, Jerrica! I love the color of your glasses! What challenge is Plume addressing?

Jerrica: Would you look at that, we match! Plume is the first health technology company dedicated to the transgender and gender non-conforming community. It is our mission to provide access to gender-affirming hormone therapy to every trans person in the country who desires it at the convenience of a smartphone, and our vision is to transform healthcare for every trans life.

Spiffy: What motivated you to do this?

Jerrica: As a physician and a trans woman, I have been both a patient and a medical provider of gender-affirming care. I have provided gender-affirming care training to many academic institutions and healthcare facilities. It has always been my passion to make healthcare better for all patients and medical providers, and I have seen the pain points and the many barriers which keep trans people out of the healthcare system. Our goal at Plume is to eliminate these barriers and create a space that provides safe, expert, convenient, and radically affirming care to support folks in their gender journey – and we will continue to be motivated to do this work until that is the case for every trans person.

Spiffy: And you use that experience to impact it as an entrepreneur, how does this help Plume make the world a more equitable place?

Jerrica: Trans folks experience significant health disparities, and most if not all of them are related to lack of access to affirming healthcare, stigma, and overwhelmingly negative care experiences that we work to combat every day. Up to 1/3 of trans people are actively discriminated and harassed, verbally or physically, in healthcare facilities in the U.S. We have also partnered with trans founded funds and organizations to provide free care to our most vulnerable trans community members.

Spiffy: It’s such a tough experience to feel unsafe in a healthcare setting. That is true community care. What is a milestone you’ve reached recently?

Jerrica: We recently moved into our 16th state, which now allows us to provide services to over 750,000 trans folks, over half of the trans population in the U.S. based on current estimates. It is amazing to be taking care of patients all over the country and truly meeting folks where they are. One of the best feelings is when somebody informs us that they are moving states so will have to leave the service, and then we get to tell them that they don't have to because we are in that state as well!

Spiffy: How has failure played a role in your journey? Has anything helped you overcome it?

Jerrica: In the span of 6 months I came out as trans, was divorced, lost my house, quit my job, started a company, and lost a lot of friends. There were plenty of points where I could have thrown in the towel and settled for a path of less resistance, but I didn't, because I knew Plume had to exist. The thought of decreasing stigma and increasing visibility in a positive light for my community as well as the support from my best friend and co-founder, Dr. Matthew Wetschler, motivates me to keep going every day. It truly doesn't feel like work, just an extension of who I am.

Spiffy: I’m so glad you persevered, what’s been a source of learning for you recently?

Jerrica: Mother Nature and my child are my greatest teachers in life. Every day they teach me lessons on unconditional love, resilience, patience, forgiveness, and tenderness. 

Spiffy: That’s beautiful, thank you so much for talking to me today.

About Jerrica: I am a trans woman, physician, mom, educator, and lover of all things athletics and the outdoors. I started Plume, the first health technology company dedicated to the transgender community, to radically redefine the way healthcare is delivered and to ensure that every trans person in the US has access to gender-affirming care at the convenience of a smartphone. (Nominated by Soltan Bryce)

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and digital curriculum, with the mission to enable over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs.

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