how to get prescribed testosterone in melbourne: gp reviews of dr adam brownhill, dr umanga de silva, dr nick silberstein and dr ohnmar john (more to come)

I’ve only seen these doctors during a pandemic! And I am a thin white femme sort of person! Keep that in mind!

Hello, I’ve decided to review every single GP I can find who will prescribe testosterone to enbies and is accepting new patients. This is going to be a very expensive blog post but I hope it’s helpful to someone!

The doctors are:

Dr Nick Silberstein

Dr Nick Silberstein has the pointiest elbows I have ever seen on a man. I guess that’s what it takes to get ahead in medicine. Before my appointment the practice sent me an sms link to an online quiz asking who I was and what I wanted. The form was a bit annoying because it had all these drop-down options that weren’t quite right, but it was also pretty nice to send Dr Silberstein a list of things to talk about ahead of time. The clinic itself was very fancy, big wood tables and expensive interior design. I found it a bit intimidating honestly, but the receptionist was really nice. The waiting room is so big it’s easy to socially distance. And there’s a pathology on site. But even with a concession card, I paid about a hundred bucks to see Dr Silberstein for half an hour. I think it’s possible to organise referrals and repeat prescriptions without making an appointment though.

In my first appointment with Dr Silberstein we talked about my medical history and his interest in queer and trans medicine, before getting onto the topic of testosterone. Turns out he was originally interested in HIV management and got into sexual health and then gender health from there. Despite being old Dr Silberstein was not old-fashioned, and although I could tell he was itching to tell me about the biochemistry of hormones he let me take the reins and didn’t push in one direction or another. He was thorough without being overbearing, describing the mechanism of male pattern baldness when I told him I was worried about hair loss, and explaining the meaning of every one of the 10 different blood tests he ordered. He was conscientious about telling me the possible risks of testosterone without being a downer. I got the impression he reads medical journals at home for fun. One small problem (for me, though this would be an asset to other people) is that he seemed a bit indecisive, and I’m also indecisive, so there a few rounds of “I don’t know, what do you think I should do”. Overall, Dr Silberstein was very thorough, very kind, and very knowledgeable, so even though he’s expensive I think I’ll keep seeing him.

Dr Ohnmar John

Dr John’s place in Brunswick is a nice basic clinic with plastic chairs in the waiting room and a cool medical receptionist. Why are medical receptionists always so cool? Anyway, it’s a dinky clinic that bulk-bills and has paper forms that you can tell have been photocopied many times. Lovely.

Dr Ohnmar John wears nice dresses and is new to trans medicine. She’s quite young, and gives the impression that she wants to do the best she can in anything she tries. She admits that she doesn’t know much about the nitty-gritty of hormones, but was dedicated in trying to find out the answers of my questions. After going through my medical history I asked her three things: should I get estrogen cream now to prevent atrophy of my junk, how am I supposed to clean this bloody androforte syringe, and is testosterone causing my upset stomach or is it a coincidence. She didn’t know the answer to any of these straight away, so she dived into the medical literature to figure it out.

I was impressed how readily she admitted she didn’t know, and the effort she put into trying to find the answer. (The answers she gave were no, it’s best to hold off on the estrogen cream until there’s an actual problem, I should give the peer navigators at Your Community Health a call, and probably not, but maybe, but probably not, and if it is it should settle down in a few days.) She apologised a few times for not knowing everything, but it was actually nice to figure it out together. If you’re looking for an authoritative doctor with heaps of experience she’s not for you, but if you’re looking for a thorough and hard-working doctor I think she’s great.

Dr Adam Brownhill

I saw Dr Brownhill when he worked at the bulk-billing gender clinic at Your Community Health. I don’t know what his new clinic is like, but I bet it’s fancy considering the fees he charges. At YCH he always seemed rushed, but that was probably more about the practise itself. He also told me he had more experience with transfeminine people than transmasculine, though that was about a year ago so he might have levelled up by now. In my appointments with him we talked about hormones, referrals to surgeons, getting blood tests and repeat prescriptions.

Dr Brownhill is a disheveled Englishman with a brusque manner. I think some people wouldn’t like his bluntness, and might see it as rude, but I’m pretty surly too so we got along fine.

In my first appointment with him he was straightforward, asking me about my history and what brought me to the trans clinic. When I said I was interested in T he asked me to go away and do some homework on the kind of testosterone I wanted to try, which turned out to be a confusing process since it was hard to figure out from the world wide web what was approved in Australia. I’m still a bit confused about the differences between all the different testosterone medications tbh. Dr Brownhill was also pretty insistent that since I’m nonbinary I should take a low dose of testosterone and transition slowly. That was fine with me, but if you were nonbinary and wanted a higher doe I’m not sure what he’d say about it. He was also pretty confident that I should take androderm, since it can be measured out in tiny amounts. He was quite sure that I should go slow. Sometimes he knew the answers to my questions and sometimes he didn’t, but if he didn’t he would quickly say so. He was quite businesslike and terse, but it’s hard to tell if that was just because of the pandemic and the clinic he was working in.

Dr Umanga De Silva

I also saw Dr De Silva at Your Community Health, and at the time she also had more experience with transfeminine people than transmasculine. Like with Dr Brownhill, I got the impression that Dr De Silva was overworked and rushed by that particular clinic.

She’s a small, chic lady with a cheery and earnestly helpful manner. In fact, I thought she was too helpful. I had a lot of questions about t but Dr De Silva pretty much agreed with everything I said and gave vague, reassuring answers to my concerns.

When I saw her I was uncertain about whether to take testosterone at all, but she didn’t know enough details to be able to answer any of my questions. When I asked her about male pattern baldness for example, she assured me everything would be fine and it wouldn’t be a problem, without any deeper explanation. I actually left the appointments feeling less confident than I started because I didn’t get many straight answers. I get the impression she was flying by the seat of her pants a bit when it came to afab nbs. Despite Ultros being there, she also didn’t ask whether anyone close to me needed to avoid getting testosterone on them, a pretty important question that other nb people at other trans clinics apparently get asked. Despite this, it was really nice to talk to someone who was so approving and supportive, and she was a genuinely friendly person.

Dr Peggy Wong

Yet to come! She only works a few days a week during business hours so it’s going to be tricky for me to get an appointment. I’m going to try though!

Conclusions so far

There was a pandemic on when I saw these people, but it looks like it’s not going to be off anytime soon, so I expect all doctors are just going to be exhausted for the next while. If you like reassuring sympathetic doctors and don’t care to know nitty-gritty details, Dr De Silva is the one for you. On the other hand, if you like your doctors gruff and your explanations thorough, see Dr Brownhill. If you have too much money and want someone really experienced, go see Dr Silberstein. And if friendly, diligent ladies are your favourite, make an appointment with Dr John.

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