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Drexel Universitys School of Public Health Launches New Program for LGBT Health

October 13, 2009

The Drexel University School of Public Health today announces the launch of a major academic research center focusing on the health disparities and health behaviors of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people and communities: the Program for LGBT Health.

Drexel joins an exclusive roster of universities in the United States where an academic unit has been established to conduct LGBT research, training and advocacy in a public health framework. Only a handful of such programs exist that specifically aim to improve the health and well-being of LGBT populations.

The Program for LGBT Health is designed to address health and wellness issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through research and evaluation, education and training, partnering with health and social services providers, and public health policy and advocacy. The program will leverage the expertise of faculty and professionals in multiple disciplines at Drexel University, as well as experts from outside the university. A significant feature of the program will be curricula leading to a Certificate in LGBT Health Awareness for the school’s graduate students.

“LGBT health is finally being recognized as an important area for the funding of research and creation of policy by the federal and state governments. I could not be more excited that the Drexel University School of Public Health has also decided to be a leader in this important field of investigation,” said Dr. Randall Sell, the director of the Program for LGBT Health and an associate professor of community health and prevention at the Drexel University School of Public Health.

The program’s first public presentation, “Public Health Perspectives on LGBT Health Issues” is scheduled for Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm at Drexel’s Bellet Building, 1505 Race Street. This introductory event will be open to the public and coincides with the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. A reception following the presentation will also welcome members of the LGBT Caucus of the APHA, co-hosted by Mazonni Center, Philadelphia’s comprehensive LGBT Health Services Center.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face health disparities like many other populations that experience discrimination and marginalization,” said Marla J. Gold, MD, the dean of the Drexel University School of Public Health. “Leading health organizations, as well as federal, state and local health agencies have all highlighted the need to increase attention to the health needs of LGBTs. Our new program responds to the recognition of public health disparities for LGBTs and meets the demand for high-quality research, training, service and public health policy for LGBT health.”

The Program for LGBT Health will draw from the significant research resources of Drexel University to focus on four core disciplines: research and evaluation; education and training; health and social services; and public health policy and advocacy. Researchers at the School of Public Health recognize sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity, race and socioeconomic status as playing integral roles in behavioral, cultural, social and etiologic aspects of illness and health.

“Yet, sexual orientation and its intersection with other key identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status (to name just a few) is largely ignored in most public health research. A specific focus on sexual orientation is also often missing from the delivery of health care services and training of health care professionals. The Drexel Program for LGBT Health will help fill that information void,” said Dr. Lisa Bowleg, a professor at the School of Public Health and expert in community health and prevention.

The priorities of the Drexel Program for LGBT Health are to:

• Develop multi-disciplinary research and theoretical innovations addressing the relationship between human health and illness and sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, race and class.

• Advance, in collaboration with health care providers, the provision of comprehensive, high-quality health care services responsive to the needs of LGBT clients.

• Develop curricula for educating and training professionals in the specific needs and experiences of LGB people and members of transgender communities.

• Advocate for the advancement of public health and well-being of LGBT people through public policy.

The major areas of research at the program include epidemiological studies of rates and patterns of disease and disorders where high rates of illness exist or are suspected (e.g., STIs, breast cancer); studies of risk factors for disease (e.g., stress related to homophobia); theory-based and exploratory studies on models of health and illness, health care utilization and access to care; studies of the psychosocial factors relevant to LGBT mental health (e.g., resilience, multiple minority stress), studies of the intersection of other multicultural identities and experiences (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status) with LGBT identities; and innovations in design of interventions and prevention programs.

The program will be guided by a group of faculty members at the School of Public Health who have each made significant research contributions to the health and wellness of LGBT communities. The faculty includes Bowleg, Gold, Sell, Dr. Augusta Villanueva and Dr. Seth Welles.

“The program brings together the talents and expertise of individuals from a wide diversity of academic and scholarly disciplines to address its core mission and facilitate innovative research, education and training, service and public health advocacy,” said Welles.

About the Researchers

Dr. Lisa Bowleg – Dr. Bowleg studies the prevention of HIV/AIDS in African American communities, as well as experiences of minority stress and resilience in African American LGBT communities. She received a grant of nearly $2 million from the NIH last year for a study to raise awareness of HIV risks and facilitate HIV prevention efforts in African American communities. Dean Marla J. Gold, MD – Dean Gold was previously the Division Chief for HIV/AIDS Medicine at the former MCP Hahnemann University. She was also Philadelphia’s Assistant Health Commissioner for Infectious Disease Control in the Public Health Department. Dr. Gold directed the design of a system of HIV care among the city’s eight public health centers.

Dr. Randy Sell – Dr. Sell will serve as the director of the Drexel Program for LGBT Health at the Drexel University School of Public Health. He was one of the first to estimate the prevalence of lesbians, gays and bisexuals in a probability sample of the United States, United Kingdom and France. His work critically examines the variables used to measure health disparities. Dr. Sell also established the lauded website, which is being incorporated into the program.

Dr. Seth Welles – Dr. Welles focuses on the natural history of HIV/AIDS, as well as the impact of childhood sexual abuse on various HIV risk indicators and HIV research in minority communities. He also is active in the design and evaluation of clinical trials.

Dr. Augusta Villanueva – Dr. Villanueva’s expertise focuses on the health status of vulnerable populations, specifically at-risk youth, the role of race, culture and ethnicity on health outcomes and the use of qualitative methodologies in community-based research.


Noah Cohen, Office of University Relations 215-895-2705, 267-228-5599 (cell) or

Richard Ochab, School of Public Health 215-762-4732 or

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