Health Care

Miami surgeon says he quit after transgender advocates complained about his Instagram

In this February 2017 photo, Dr. Christopher Salgado (left) examines a patient. Salgado, section chief for the University of Miami Health System’s LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health, said he resigned after transgender advocates complained about graphic photos with crude comments on his Instagram account.
In this February 2017 photo, Dr. Christopher Salgado (left) examines a patient. Salgado, section chief for the University of Miami Health System’s LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health, said he resigned after transgender advocates complained about graphic photos with crude comments on his Instagram account. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

A University of Miami plastic surgeon said he resigned his position as section chief of the LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health after transgender advocates complained about graphic photos of gender reassignment surgery and demeaning hashtags on his Instagram account.

Dr. Christopher John Salgado, 50, said in an email to the Miami Herald early Saturday that he was not fired from the UM Health System as previously reported. Salgado, who has not replied to repeated requests for an interview, sent the Herald a photo of what he said was an email exchange in which his resignation was accepted on Feb. 16 by Dr. Omaida Velazquez, chair of the surgery department for UM’s Miller School of Medicine.

Salgado appears to have told UM that his Instagram account was hacked, according to the email exchange with Velazquez. “Please note that we cannot determine whether you have been hacked as we were just about to start the investigation of this matter,” Velazquez wrote in the email.

Lisa Worley, a UM spokeswoman, confirmed that Salgado no longer works for the university but declined to address the specifics of his separation. Hospitals often allow physicians to resign instead of facing disciplinary action in order to avoid lawsuits.

In his email to the Herald, Salgado offered a statement of contrition for the graphic photos of genitals and crude comments that appeared on his Instagram account, including hashtags demeaning to Asians and transgender persons.

“I apologize to anyone offended by this as I have dedicated the last nine years of my life to this patient population,” he said. “As a hispanic male and having suffered from mistreatment in the past due to my race and culture I learned early on to accept everyone for who they are and always have.”

Salgado’s Instagram account, @sexsurgeon, has been removed from the social media site, but not before it was shared widely among transgender advocates, reported on in TransAdvocate, a news site dedicated to transgender issues, and archived by users of the online forum Reddit.com.

Archived photos of the @sexsurgeon Instagram account include a headshot of Salgado and numerous photos of patients, including graphic pictures of male and female genitalia in various stages of surgery.

The photos on Salgado’s Instagram do not indicate they were for educational purposes, and their casual nature contradict the guidelines that Salgado himself proposed for genital photography in a February 2018 article he co-authored in Aesthetic Surgery Journal, a peer reviewed publication for plastic surgeons.

In the article, Salgado and co-authors propose photographic standards for patient genitalia in order to facilitate an accurate exchange of information and suggested that, “All medical photographs include a sky-blue background, proper lighting, removal of distractors, consistent camera framing, and standard camera angles.”

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, an organization for physicians specializing in that field, publishes a code of ethics mandating that members always use “respectful language and images.”

On March 13, the ASPS website included a profile of Salgado as a member of the organization. Salgado’s profile is no longer available on the organization’s website.

Adam Ross, an ASPS spokesman, did not address Salgado’s social media account but issued a written statement addressing the organization’s principles regarding patients and expectations for plastic and reconstructive surgeons who specialize in gender reassignment surgery.

“The American Society of Plastic Surgeons believes all patients deserve privacy and dignity,” he said. “The plastic surgery specialty is privileged to provide care to the transgender community through gender affirming treatments, and we strongly condemn any disregard for human decency.”

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