The LGBT Health & Development Program

2015 LGBTQ Health Conference Highlights Diversity of Research and Clinical Practice

Posted on November 10th, 2015 by Liz McConnell in Featured, Research Blog. No Comments

Halloween was even more exciting this year with the fourth annual Chicago LGBTQ Health Conference: Bridging Research and Practice, co-organized by the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program at Northwestern University and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Institute of Center on Halsted. This year, the event was held the day before the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting in Chicago. Most of the 200 conference participants traveled from outside the Midwest, and represented disciplines including social work, psychology, medicine, public health, epidemiology, and more!

group photo of researchers, clinicians, and students

Dr. Franciso Sy (NIMHD) with pre-conference participants and panelists. Photo courtesy of Center on Halsted.

Students Arrive Early for New Professional Development Pre-Conference

This year, graduate students and early career professionals kicked off the conference with a professional development session followed by a networking lunch.

IMPACT’s Director, Dr. Brian Mustanski, moderated the research panel, which included leading experts from around the country: Dr. Francisco Sy from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. John Pachankis from the Yale School of Public Health, Dr. Sari Reisner from Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Vanessa Schick from the School of Public Health at The University of Texas. Panel members shared their experiences working in a range of settings and disciplines and provided advice about determining if a research environment is LGBTQ friendly, obtaining grant funding for LGBTQ research, and disseminating research beyond academic settings.

The Director of Behavioral Health at Center on Halsted, Dr. Héctor Torres, moderated the clinical panel, which included clinical experts from a number of Chicago mental health care providers: Jessica Dubuar, the Assistant Clinical Director at the Haymarket Center, Dr. Magda Houlberg, the Chief Clinical Officer at Howard Brown Health Center, and Dr. Danielle Simmons, the Assistant Director for Outreach/Psychoeducation at the University of Illinois at Chicago Counseling Center. The panelists offered insight into their day-to-day work including differences in serving various client populations from university students to those recovering from drug addiction, the importance of self-care in preventing burnout, and how clinicians’ LGBTQ competence improves their ability to address client needs outside of LGBTQ contexts and spaces.

At the networking lunch, the panelists facilitated break-out discussions on different special interest topics. Attendees at the pre-conference session were enthusiastic about the opportunity to connect with others with similar interests. Kaitlyn Kunstman, a second year medical student at Northwestern who does research on trans health, found the pre-conference “really informative” and liked “the opportunity for students and junior faculty to network and understand how to get involved.”

group photo of Northwestern and IMPACT leadership

Northwestern University and IMPACT Program leadership celebrate the new IMPACT Institute. Photo courtesy of Center on Halsted.

Northwestern Announces New Institute Focused on LGBTQ Health

Dr. Mustanski kicked off the conference with the exciting announcement that Northwestern is creating a new IMPACT Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. The University-wide Institute will take a multidisciplinary approach to studying the development and experiences of LGBTQ people. Dr. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Northwestern’s Associate Provost for Faculty, highlighted the fit between the Institute’s focus and the university’s mission and underscored the importance of “moving the needle to focus on celebrating life and healthy relationships.” Dr. Jabbar Bennett, the Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, talked about the Institute’s commitment to bridging research and practice by engaging scholars, service providers, members of the LGBTQ community, and the public at large. Dr. Mustanski announced that he will serve as the Institute’s Director, and Dr. Francesca Gaiba, currently the Associate Director of the UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, will serve as the Associate Director.

Former White House Senior Policy Advisor Reviews National HIV/AIDS Strategy

The keynote speaker was Gregorio Millett, M.P.H., Vice President and Director of Public Policy at amfAR and a well-published and nationally recognized epidemiologist with experience working at the highest levels of federal HIV policy development at both the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mr. Millett was introduced by Dr. Richard D’Aquila, Director of the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research, which is focused on stopping the HIV epidemic among young me who have sex with men and sponsored the talk.

man holding mic delivering keynote address

Gregorio Millett, MPH, delivers the keynote address. Photo courtesy of Center on Halsted.

Mr. Millett reviewed his work on President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy in his keynote address, “Utilization of Research and Public Health Data to Inform National HIV Policy.” Mr. Millett highlighted the three key components of the strategy: targeting the groups at greatest risk; scaling up effective strategies for preventing HIV; and increasing rates of diagnosis, linkages to care, and continued care. He also highlighted the importance of conducting community-based research, using prevention dollars to meet the needs of populations at the highest risk (such as Black YMSM and transgender women), and conducting research that is engaged with public policy. In addition to research reflections, he shared his personal experience working in the White House, such as how he was impressed that President Obama “asked substantive questions about HIV in the midst of foreign policy and financial crises.”

Afternoon Sessions Illustrate Diversity of LGBTQ Research and Clinical Work

In the afternoon, presentations were broken up into five sessions: Mental Health (sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention), Transgender Health, Women’s Health, MSM and Sexual Health, and Healthcare Access and Utilization. These sessions illustrate the range of topics covered by researchers and clinicians, which ranged from stigma and mental health to sexual health to advocacy and empowerment. Conference attendees noticed and appreciated this diversity. Jessica Dehlin, Program Manager and Therapist at Chicago Women’s AIDS Project, said, “I’m glad that there were talks centered around women because the highest risk population is YMSM, and it was good to see some focus on women, too.” John Frank, a Psychology Resident in the LGBTQ Health Track of the Clinical Psychology Internship Program at Northwestern, said, “It’s really exciting to be with people who are at the cutting edge of research, especially with trans populations, who acknowledge the shortcomings of existing research but also promise hope for the future.”

five panelists on a stage

Dr. John Pachankis introduces the Mental Health Symposia speakers. Photo courtesy of Center on Halsted.

Each session featured both researchers and clinicians, reflecting the conference’s theme of bridging research and practice. Psychologists, social workers, and professional counselors licensed in the state of Illinois received continuing education credits for their attendance. Anna Flynn, a researcher and Ph.D. student in Mental Health at John’s Hopkins University, said, “The best part is being able to talk to people who are practitioners and clinicians and bouncing ideas off of people.” Dr. Nicholas Grant, a Postdoctoral Resident in LGBT Mental Health at the San Diego VA, liked that the presentations were “comprehensive” and “interdisciplinary, and said, “It’s nice to have a space where everyone is focused on different specialties within LGBT health.”

Students and Professionals Share Research in Poster Session

At the end of the day, 65 students, professionals, and community health professionals presented posters on topics addressing LGBTQ health issues throughout the life span and from various disciplinary approaches. Topics included program development, implementation, and evaluation; experiences with schools, the criminal justice system, the military, and transactional sex work; and health risk behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use. Following their closing remarks, Dr. Mustanski and Dr. Torres presented four research awards, sponsored by The Graduate School at Northwestern University.

poster award winners at the 2015 LGBTQ Health Conference

Drs. Mustanski (IMPACT) and Vargas (Center on Halsted) with the poster award winners. Photo by Roky Truong.

1st Place Student Poster:  Dennis Li, “HIV Riskiness Classification of Venues That Serve Young Men Who Have Sex with Men”

2nd Place Student Poster:  David Hutsell, “Differences Between Bisexual and Lesbian Women’s Reasons for Cohabitation: Implications for Couple and Individual Well-Being”

1st Place Professional Poster:  Dr. Alida Bouris, “Unsafe School Climates and Exclusionary School Discipline as Correlates of Incarceration among Adolescent Men Who Have Sex with Men and Transgender Women of Color: Cross-Sectional Support for a School-to-Prison Pipeline”

2nd Place Professional Poster:  Paul Santos, “YMSM First Sexual Experiences: Adding Lubrication to the Equation”

Throughout the day, participants talked about the conference using the hashtag #ChiLGBTQ on Twitter:

  • Rain. ChicagoWinds. 48DegreeTemps. All worth it to hear Greg Millett discuss the development of the US National HIV/AIDS Strategy!
  • Excited about all the great trans work being represented at the IMPACT conference!
  • Love this! Q card: empowering LGBTQ patients to facilitate dialogue with providers.


The 2015 conference was possible due to the generous support of our co-sponsors:

Platinum Sponsors:  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, The Graduate School (TGS) at Northwestern University, Third Coast Center for AIDS Research

Gold Sponsor: Northwestern Memorial Healthcare

Silver Sponsors: AIDS Foundation of Chicago, The Alumnae of Northwestern University, Sexualities Project at Northwestern

Bronze Sponsors: The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health at The University of Chicago, Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, Loyola University School of Social Work, TPAN

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