“Even though I was in some of the least accepting areas (for LGBTQ people), it fueled my drive to get back there,” Cates says of coming back to Texas to serve the medical needs of the LGBTQ community.
Besides his extensive medical training and residency across the country, Cates holds the distinction as the first person to hold a fellowship in LGBTQ Healthcare and HIV at the University of California at Los Angeles. He completed his year in the pioneering program at UCLA in June and moved to San Antonio to settle in and seek out the best Tex-Mex queso and working with a personal trainer to counteract his favorite food and prepare for the rigors of his new mission in San Antonio.
“I grew up in Dallas as a closeted gay kid,” Cates says. “Being around southern culture and seeing the discrimination LGBTQ people faced kept me in the closet until medical school.” Undergraduate studies in San Angelo and graduate school at Texas A&M University, where he earned a master’s degree in public health, did little encourage him to come out.
That changed when he went to the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine at Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pa., and then into two years of clinical rotations in Elmira, N.Y. Once he left Texas, he was able to come out and begin to discover who he was.
His return to the south, however, opened his eyes to the plight of LGBTQ patients. “I really felt powerless,” he says of his experiences during an away rotation in Dallas during medical school. At an urgent care clinic, he took a genital swab from a gay man and place it in a sealed container to go to the lab. An aide refused to take the container, proclaiming, “I don’t want to get AIDS!”
Cates also encountered attending physicians who refused to use appropriate personal pronouns for transgender people but could do little about it.
During that same Texas rotation, however, he also got to spend time training in an HIV clinic and got his first taste in the specialized field and found inspiration for his future career.
After earning his degree as a Doctor of Osteopathy in 2016, he returned to the south, this time in rural Arkansas, to do his residency in internal medicine.
“While in Arkansas, I witnessed the discrimination LGBTQ people face in healthcare firsthand, and initially laid low and kept my head down,” Cates says. “I had a student tell me, ‘I hope you find God,’ after finding out I was engaged to my partner. I had nurses make comments behind my back that would come back to me. I witnessed an attending (physician) speak down about a transwoman he was admitting to me.”
“I had enough of these abuses. There was only so much I could do as a resident, so I did what I could and educated my peers,” Cates says. That included lectures regarding LGBTQ health issues and what those patients faced.
His passion ignited, Cates was called to a fellowship at UCLA, the first of its kind to specialize in LGBTQ health issues and HIV.
“It was an empowering and incredibly rewarding experience. I now feel prepared to take what I learn to provide care for my community in the south, where I feel it is desperately needed. I feel proud and excited to be joining AARC in providing that care,” Cates says. “I am a very affirming and understanding physician and I’m here for all parts of the LGBQT community.”
One of the things he noticed while in Los Angeles was that it was harder for LGBTQ people to find housing and jobs, “but there was only so much I could do about it as a physician.” For that reason, he is looking forward to working with AARC, which offers numerous services to help the whole person, including housing assistance and mental health counseling. AARC Health Equity Clinic is also the only LGBTQ Specialty Clinic in San Antonio.
Cates says he looks forward to exploring San Antonio, especially for what the city can offer the interest he shares with his husband including exploring the craft beer scene and finding trivia nights when the COVID-19 pandemic releases its grip on a normal social life.
In the meanwhile, Cates is spending time with Mika, a Husky, and Pitbull/Lab mix Maggie, “who will lick you until she’s dehydrated,” Cates says.
The AARC Health Equity Clinic is accepting new patients and offers: Onsite Avita Pharmacy, HIV Specialty Care, LGBTQ Primary care, Trans Affirming care and PrEP/PEP. The Health Equity clinic is also hosting a virtual LGBT lecture with Dr. Cates. This free virtual event is scheduled to be held in late September. To learn more visit aarcsa.com.