How I Became an LGBT Health Researcher: Q&A with Antonia Clifford
Written by Kitty, IMPACT intern.
We often get asked why we do what we do, so we’re sharing stories of IMPACT’s faculty and staff about the diverse paths to a career in LGBT health.
How did you get interested in a career in LGBT health?
Before coming to IMPACT, I worked on positive youth development in community centers and residential facilities. I saw patterns in the people I worked with, such as being kicked out of the house, not having healthcare, or experiencing poverty. You can see the lifelong effects of trauma and marginalization. To me, LGBT health research is a means to confront the health disparities caused by these structural and interpersonal factors. I wanted to be in a place to speak about the reasons behind health disparities.
What education or training did you pursue to prepare yourself for a career in LGBT health?
I didn’t enter or exit college looking for this specifically, but I sought out experiences. I got my Bachelor’s in Sociology and my Master’s in Social Work. I worked with organizations doing different things: offering transitional living for homeless teenagers, using poetry to counter violence and poverty, combating suicide and stigma. I found LGBT people everywhere. My sociology training taught me to look beyond what is on the surface, and my work in the community taught me people have stories that must heard. LGBT health research is a conduit to tell stories and discover deeper meanings.
I identify as queer and I’m a queer parent; that experience informs my work. While I was working at one of my internships, I met my partner. She had a son and we incorporated ourselves into a big family. All of life was happening while I was building my career. My personal life informs a lot of what I do.
Describe what you do in your role now and how it advances the field of LGBT health.
I am a Research Project Manager for the RADAR study, and I manage a recruitment and retention team. We have over 500 participants in the RADAR study – it’s a lot to keep track of! Much of what I do is ensuring this group of participants is diverse and representative, so a range of stories are being told. This means better data, better research, and better interventions, which impacts the future health of LGBT youth. Retention is my specialty. It’s harder than it sounds, but I find it enjoyable. Our participants experience many stressors, which may impact their health in important ways, and these stressors also make it harder to engage them in research and care. But we build relationships with them, which only encourages follow up and makes this work meaningful and enjoyable.
What advice would you give to someone interested in a career in LGBT health?
Find good mentors, people who pitch for you, and follow up with them. Find people who believe in you. There’s no one path to doing the work that you want to do – the longest path is figuring out what that work is. Once you have that, connect to people who already do that well.
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