Dr. Laura Levin is originally from Baltimore, Md. and completed her medical degree at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. in the early 1990s. Levin is board-certified in Pediatrics and Addiction and has worked as a pediatrician at Atrium Health in Concord, N.C. (formerly Piedmont Pediatrics) for over 20 years. She became a local LGBTQ public figure after coming out as transgender publically a little over five years ago and has used her platform to promote transgender awareness and advocacy.
Why did you want to become a doctor?
When I was a child, my pediatrician recognized an aptitude for sciences and math. That confidence he expressed in me eventually inspired me to pursue a career in medicine. When I studied physics as an undergraduate, the available jobs in that branch of science were ones that didn’t interest me. I wanted to be in a helping profession, so I switched to medicine.
Why did you choose pediatrics as your field of specialty?
Simply put, all the nicest mentors were in the pediatric field during medical school.
Are there other areas of medicine that interest you?
Gender care is my current passion. I am thrilled to work for Levine Children’s Center for Gender Health as a transgender medicine specialist. I do lots of work in the field of behavioral health (ADHD, anxiety, depression). About six years ago, I started working in the addiction field as a favor to a friend. It was supposed to be a three-month gig. I ended up loving it and am now board certified in Addiction Medicine too.
How would you describe the perfect vacation?
My favorite vacation was Iguazu Falls. I am now working on section hikes of the Appalachian Trail with friends. Now, how to figure out how to combine the two!
Your announcement to Atrium Health to pursue your gender transition in 2015 was inadvertently made public by the media. What was your reaction to this and did it present any challenges professionally or personally?
Initially, I was very fearful. Believe it or not, I do not like change! I thought community backlash would be strong and that we would lose 12-15 percent of our patient population. Instead, we lost less than 1 percent. My current challenge is the fear I feel when going into a room to meet a family new to me. I worry they will get up and walk out, which has happened, but not in a few years. I now know that this is a reflection on them and not me. It still can be painful though.
Overall, what has your life been like since deciding to transition?
I am so much more fulfilled. I connect with people on a much deeper level. I don’t live in shame (of who I am) and fear (of being discovered). I am out, open and proud! I also consider myself an accidental activist. When one is professional and transitions in the public view, they almost always get called to be leaders of the community. I have been on the board of directors of Equality North Carolina and now am on the board at Time Out Youth. Pretty tough stuff for someone who considers themselves an introverted introvert.
What is your favorite color?
Purple! Yay purple!
Can you describe how being a doctor has brought meaning to you?
I am rewarded by the satisfaction that I do several jobs that almost no one else does. I’ve always been what I consider a grunt, go to work, do your job, go home. My life is very different now though! I have lectured to future nurses, N.C. Chaplains, addiction medicine specialists in North Carolina and Virginia, and spoken to several groups and at several conferences (Carolina Conference on Queer Youth, PFLAG groups, etc.).
What did you do professionally before pursuing a medical degree?
I was a professional student. I completed a five-year program in undergraduate education, two years in graduate school, then four years of medical school.
What advice can you give today’s generation of transgender professionals?
Show up, do your job! Do it well. Like it or not, we represent an entire community, and if we mess up, it can have serious implications. Not to mention that there are those out there who would like to see us fail. I would also say try to make yourself available to others who are in transition. They frequently can benefit from your experience, strength, and hope.
How do you like to spend your time away from work?
I hang out with friends and have deep conversations and coffee six feet apart. I have developed a love of the outdoors and lately have been backpacking, camping, kayaking, tubing, paddleboarding, climbing and hiking. Mostly with friends — but sometimes solo.
What do you like to do to relax and unwind?
Meditating, reading, listening to podcasts and music (I’ve got electronic meditation music on in the background as I write this), playing a game called Go………
What is your favorite food?
I love the Maryland blue crab. But, as I move toward vegan, I am appreciative of dark chocolate!