A Groundbreaking Initiative to Improve LGBT Health

February 25, 2013

As the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans have been increasingly recognized across society, a new program at Columbia University Medical Center has been established to improve the health and well-being of LGBT individuals.

The vision guiding the newly established LGBT Health Initiative at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) is to draw upon the world-class clinical, research, and educational resources of the renowned medical center to insure the health and well-being of every member of the LGBT community and their loved ones. This unprecedented move to harness the resources of CUMC on behalf of the LGBT community will foster long-needed research efforts, create innovative medical and mental health services, lead to the training of students and practitioners, and promote the development of outreach strategies specific to today’s critical needs.

“Across the lifespan, new issues are emerging, including LGBT youth coming out at earlier ages, new family identities being forged by same-sex marriage and co-parenting relationships, and the aging of the first openly LGBT generation,” noted the Initiative’s Director, Anke A. Ehrhardt, Ph.D., who is also Director of the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health at the NYS Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry. “We will bring together scientists, clinicians, educators, and policymakers to respond comprehensively to the critical issues facing LGBT people. For example, families, schools, and health providers are often ill-prepared to offer support to LGBT youth, which increases their vulnerability to shame, low self esteem, isolation, loneliness and self-harm. We will conduct the research necessary to develop the tools that families, schools, and health providers can use to strengthen resilience among LGBT people. Such research will also inform the training of the next generation of clinicians and educators and drive public policy to improve the climate of schools and communities so that LGBT youth can thrive.”

The Initiative’s Co-Director is Walter O. Bockting, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and internationally known sexuality researcher who came to Columbia from the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2012. “Almost every day in the news, there is another sign of progress in fighting stigma and in confronting the inequities found among the LGBT population. However, despite this dramatic increase in public awareness, research to guide this progress and training in evidence-based, culturally competent health care has lagged behind,” said Dr. Bockting. “To fill this gap, we will take LGBT health research, practice, education, and policy to a whole new level by working collaboratively with faculty and students, colleagues in the field, affected communities, and policymakers. Together, we will lead the way toward greater understanding, better access to care, improved quality of life, and well-being.”

The Initiative’s research efforts will recognize the diversity within the LGBT population and the urgent need to understand the intersections among gender identity, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, social class, and age, as well as the specific needs of different groups. The issues facing families and gay adolescents, for instance, are different from the concerns of older bisexual men of color and from those of young lesbian women. In addition, transgender people require a special focus, since they are among the most stigmatized members of society. It has been recently demonstrated that such stigma is directly related to high rates of depression and suicide risk among the transgender population, especially if they are impoverished and homeless.

The LGBT Health Initiative is based at the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, in association with the Columbia University School of Nursing, and builds upon the decades of work by researchers and clinicians at both institutions. line-height:150%”>“It is of historic importance that the resources of a major academic department, in collaboration with a distinguished School of Nursing, will be devoted specifically to translating advanced research on LGBT health into state-of-the-art clinical care, teaching and training of health professionals, and public policy analysis and formulation,” noted Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., Chair of Columbia Psychiatry and Director of the NYS Psychiatric Institute.


Columbia University Department of Psychiatry & New York State Psychiatric Institute

Columbia Psychiatry is ranked among the best academic departments and psychiatric research facilities in the nation and has contributed greatly to the understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders. Located at the New York State Psychiatric Institute on the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center campus in northern Manhattan, the department enjoys a rich and productive collaborative relationship with physicians in various disciplines at Columbia University’s College of Physician’s and Surgeons, School of Nursing. and Mailman School of Public Health. Columbia Psychiatry is home to distinguished clinicians and researchers noted for their clinical and research advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and childhood psychiatric disorders. Columbia Psychiatry’s extraordinary scientific base is supported by more federal grants than any other psychiatry department in the nation. Visit http://columbiapsychiatry.org for more information.

Since 1987 Columbia Psychiatry has been home to the Division of HIV, which was recently expanded to become the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health (Director: Anke A. Ehrhardt, Ph.D.) comprising the new LGBT Health Initiative, the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, and the New York/New Jersey AIDS Education and Training Center. The Division serves as a coordinating mechanism for all Columbia Psychiatry faculty engaged with the study of gender and sexuality, while providing critically needed training support to residents, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, professional staff, and community members. Visit http://gender-sexuality-health.org for more information.


Rachel Yarmolinsky Raymond Smith
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212-543-5353/917-532-3090 212-543-5196