Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Story of Self Love & the Pursuit of Medicine
Updated: Apr 29, 2022
By J.D. Stevens-Jones
Meet Dr. Tiffany Najberg.
She’s the director and founder of UrgentEMS, a walk-in clinic in downtown Shreveport. She’s been practicing emergency medicine for 18 years and studied at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She got her sea legs at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and even weathered Hurricane Katrina. Her private practice just recently opened as of June 7 and overall, clinic life has been business as usual. When she’s not in the American Tower sky rise, she enjoys exploring her new city (she just recently moved here, too!).
This all comes on the heels of a big transition – her walking away from her previous job as a staff physician of emergency medicine at St. Francis Hospital in Monroe while going through a divorce. Oh yeah, and coming out.
You see, Dr. Najberg is a transgender woman, and on October 15, 2020 she decided to live openly.
Photo courtesy of Tiffany Najberg
“That day I threw my [work] name tag in the trash, put on a power suit that was obviously not a male suit, put on my jewelry and walked out through the main lobby in my apartment complex. I made a choice. That was the day I was going to stop doing any form of hiding whatsoever,” she said during an interview with us mid-June.
For seven months prior, Najberg had been receiving hormone replacement therapy. Her body was changing, and as she said, she had to make a choice. She knew she could no longer hide at her current job; that morning after working her shift, she quit. By that afternoon she had already lined up an interview, her first as Dr. Tiffany A. Najberg, DO, FACEP.
While she didn't land that job, she fortunately did find her current one a week later. After learning about the potential of a new clinic opening by a paramedic from New Orleans, she felt it was the right career move to apply with UrgentEMS.
“I saw the vision he was trying to do,” she said, of UrgentEMS co-founder Matthew Lottinger.
That vision included not only a walk-in clinic, but the ability to provide services via telemedicine to connect dentists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and physicians with patients. Najberg was one hundred percent on board, and immediately implemented gender affirming care including writing letters and treating minors.
“While I’m not going to be comfortable making the new diagnosis and initiating treatment, I will continue treatment for any kid that’s getting trans care and is already established,” she said. “And I will do what I can to find a referral for somebody that needs an initial consultation.”
For queer people, especially trans youth, finding gender affirming care is rare in Louisiana, let alone Shreveport/Bossier City. Many doctors are not equipped with the knowledge of trans medicine, but with Najberg being transgender, she offers a unique perspective when it comes to the doctor/patient relationship.
As Najberg and Lottinger began planning their facility, they decided to open strategically in Shreveport. With it being a larger city than Monroe and more of a hub, it made sense to place UrgentEMS in an area that had capability to grow – their ultimate goal.
Their opening week: a response to the recent gender-affirming healthcare ban in Arkansas. She said she saw an opportunity to show solidarity by placing three billboards around the state capitol in Little Rock reading “We don’t care who you are. We’ll care for you,” and the like. For Najberg, this was her ribbon cutting.
“When they started passing this bullshit in Arkansas, I saw the opportunity to put something up there that might give people a bit of hope,” she said. “I wanted the state legislature to know that right across the border there’s a trans woman who actually thinks their laws suck and that I’m doing something about it.”
The recent healthcare laws Najberg is referring to bans and criminalizes medical care for transgender youth in Arkansas. In passing the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act HB 1570, Arkansas became the first state to pass a bill restricting access to gender-affirming healthcare for anyone under 18, even with parental consent. The act also prohibits minors from receiving hormones, puberty blockers and transition-related surgeries.
“I don't know how they could think it’s OK to detransition people forcefully. They’re being politicized to prove a point. I know for a fact there's already been at least a half dozen attempted suicides because of that law. These kids are killing themselves because of this stupid law and they're OK with that. They’d rather make a point and grandstand on these kids' lives than do the right thing,” Najberg said.
In 2019, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing almost 2 percent of high school students identity as transgender, and 35 percent attempted suicide in the past year. For Najberg, she said she’s known she was trans since she was six years old, but it wasn’t until her twenties that she had the words. When she was younger she used to pray that she’d become a girl, and all she ever hoped for was to help people like herself. Now she’s getting that chance, and on her own terms.
“Any time in the course of my life, if you would have told me there was a button to push to turn me into a girl, I would have pushed that fucking thing before you could even tell me what it was for,” she said.
Najberg grew up in the Texas heat of the 1980s. Surrounded by media propaganda, the AIDs epidemic and a general queer-phobia from the south, being out was never an option. Eventually she settled in New Orleans, the place that would give her footing and hope.
These days, more youth than ever are comfortable enough to come out at earlier ages and seek gender-affirming care from the get-go. This June marked Najberg’s first time being an out trans woman and celebrating Pride, something she said she’ll never forget.
Dr. Tiffany Najberg participated in her first Pride event this year, Field Gay. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Najberg.
“I spent a long time living in denial,” she said. “It didn’t work. When my marriage fell apart, I realized that Yeah, I am still pretty trans. I’m tired of living this lie. I deserve to have an identity.”
She first put her name down on paper as “Tiffany” (named after the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which she thought was Audrey Hepburn’s name as a child) on March 28, 2019. Two weeks prior her ex had asked for a divorce. It was kismet and ultimately, as she put it, the best thing that ever happened to her. In May she explored New Orleans with her friends publicly as Tiffany.
“It felt freaking wonderful. I woke up the next morning crying happy tears. If there was ever any doubt right there and then, that eliminated any possibility of me not transitioning,” she said. “You couldn’t just experience that and put it in a box. There’s no way.”
By July she had a plan: she was going to go from “dude-tastic” to “Tiff-tastic,” as she put it, and she did. In October 2019 she began laser hair removal, and had now gone out multiple times as herself. She was getting into a groove of learning how to love this new version of her, and then COVID-19 happened.
“Being an ER doctor, I didn’t have the best feeling about COVID. We all thought we were going to die. If I was going to possibly face the plague and die, I was going to as myself,” she said.
Najberg went to the clinic on March 13, 2020 and explained who she was, that she was a doctor, and she wanted a prescription of estradiol, a hormone patch for women. She was granted her first prescription and in the parking lot, she placed the first patch on her body.
She worked at the hospital until she no longer could and decided in October it was finally time to come out. While she may have quit her job, she said the amount of support that came from her peers was amazing – and at that, in the small town of Monroe. She felt loved, but she knew that it was time to start her new life elsewhere.
“I like it [here in Shreveport]. Casual acceptance is a lot stronger here than it is in Monroe and in smaller places. …People here are inclined to give me respect rather than trying to make a misgendering deal out of it,” she said.
At 43, Najberg is finally living the life she wants. She and Lottinger have created a beautiful clinic, welcoming to everyone. Inside you’ll find a light and airy space that’s more reminiscent of a therapist's office than a doctor’s. Each exam room is themed and you’ll find butterflies throughout, a subtle nod to the metamorphosis Najberg has gone through.
The facility includes multiple exam rooms and an infusion room with hydration services. Additional services include acute member care, virtual urgent triage, in-home urgent care, mobile health screenings and clinics, chronic disease management and crisis prevention, lifestyle management, dietary management and in-home safety.
She’s got big dreams for UrgentEMS, and she sees the future of medicine.
“I put my life savings into this: My transition fund,” she said. “I’d love to see it grow. It’ll bring a lot of jobs to the area. This isn’t going to be a small operation. Eventually we’ll open the downstairs clinic, which will house 30-50 staff. Call centers are coming. The sky’s the limit if we grow this into a national or multinational corporation.”
For those interested in booking an appointment with Najberg, please visit www.urgentems.com or call (318) 299-6512.
J.D. Stevens-Jones is a co-creator of Queerport. You can usually find them searching for vintage or out and about documenting Shreveport's queer history in the making. You can connect with them on Twitter @yagirlboi.