The LGBT Health & Development Program

How I Became an LGBT Health Researcher: Q&A with Krystal Madkins

Posted on May 19th, 2015 by IMPACT in Featured, Research Blog, Youth Blog. No Comments

Written by Kathy Piejko, 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.

Headshot of Krystal Madkins

How did you get interested in a career in LGBT health?

During my junior year of college, I took the class “Sociology of AIDS.” Through this course, I got an in-depth education about how HIV disproportionately affects certain groups such as gay and bisexual men. The class hosted various guest speakers, ranging from people infected with HIV, healthcare providers, and researchers. It was interesting to listen to different perspectives on the issue. The discrimination faced by those who are infected and affected by HIV was also driven home by my internship at a daycare for children with families affected by HIV/AIDS. I learned, first hand, how the stigmatization of having HIV not only affects the individual but their friends and family.

What education or training did you pursue to prepare yourself for a career in LGBT health?

After I graduated college, I received my Masters in Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2010. I took several classes which focused on healthcare for underserved populations, health disparities, and microagressions within healthcare. Some of the relevant epidemiology courses I took focused on HIV and STIs, infectious diseases, and chronic diseases.

Describe a typical week or what you do in that role and how it advances the field of LGBT health?

I am the Project Director of Keep It Up! (KIU!).  KIU! is an online HIV prevention program for young men who have sex with men. The study is implemented in Chicago, New York City, and Atlanta. I manage the KIU! team by collaborating and communicating with research assistants, research interns, coordinators in different locations, and data managers.  I also like to think I help gay and bisexual men stay healthy through the online prevention program. The aim is to give participants the tools to fulfill healthy lifestyle goals and give gay and bisexual youth sexual health information they might not otherwise receive.

What do you like about working in this field?

I think it is interesting and important to health and well-being. We give participants tools to use in the real world. Most people have sex: let’s make sure they know their options. I love seeing the positive feedback from participants who learn to “take control of their health.” Even negative feedback is helpful because it may give insight into the problems this population is experiencing. It’s also inspiring to work with people who genuinely care.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a career in LGBT health?

Just go for it. Get as much experience as you can as soon as possible. Volunteer and talk to people in the field to stay up to date on current events in the community. Try to be aware of issues that the community wants to see addressed, and figure out how to play a role.

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