A Practice for All Pronouns
Dr. Jerrica Kirkley ’06 is building an online medical practice for and by trans people.
By Carole Tanzer Miller
Dr. Jerrica Kirkley ’06 begins a video call with a query: “Can we start with a quick name and pronoun introduction? I’m chief medical officer and co-founder of Plume and go by she/her pronouns.”
The icebreaker is important to the 37-year-old physician from Denver, Colo. Kirkley came out as a transgender woman in 2019, the same year she and a business partner launched an online medical practice called Plume that they describe as being “for trans people, by trans people.”
Leveraging the telehealth boom that exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, Plume is a subscription-based health care company. Its clinicians meet with patients in 33 states, prescribe gender-affirming hormones and monitor quarterly lab work through a smartphone app and website. They also write letters for patients who are changing their names and help coordinate care for those seeking gender-confirmation surgery. And, Kirkley says, when patients have questions or concerns, an understanding professional is a text away. Plume has about 7,000 patients.
More than anything, we’re really just trying to bring a lot of celebration and joy to this.
The seeds for Kirkley’s fast-growing practice were sown during high school in Raleigh and took root during travels to Latin America as a Caldwell Fellow at NC State. “I always gravitated towards marginalized communities, and that could be for any number of things — whether it’s gender, gender identity, race, et cetera,” she says.
Her mission came into focus during her residency in family medicine at the University of Colorado. That’s where she began offering hormone therapy to align patients’ physical traits with their gender identity. “About 80% of trans folks desire to be on hormone therapy, and it can literally be lifesaving,” she says. Kirkley and co-founder Dr. Matthew Wetschler have big plans for Plume. By the end of 2022, they hope to provide treatment in all 50 states, and Kirkley envisions setting up online peer-support groups and other services. The aim is to equip patients to live as their authentic selves. “More than anything,” she says, “we’re really just trying to bring a lot of celebration and joy to this.”