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Growing Partnership with QTBIPOC Radical Social Justice Organization

Professor Ortiz, volunteers and staff members at Galaei community event

January 6, 2023

By Emily Gallagher

The NIH-funded Drexel FIRST (Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation) program has led to the recruitment of twelve faculty members at the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH) and the College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) this fall quarter. The program aims to create sustainable institutional changes necessary to promote inclusive excellence for all and contribute to the science of health disparities that have an impact on individuals, communities, and populations.

The FIRST program has further renewed DSPH’s longstanding commitment to engaging and serving communities and has enabled a larger capacity for researchers to collaborate with community-serving organizations.

Kasim Ortiz, MS, Assistant Professor in the department of Health Management and Policy, joined DSPH through the FIRST program in August and has begun making connections with community-serving organizations local to Philadelphia.

One of these organizations is Galaei, a Queer and Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QTBIPOC) radical social justice organization. They provide and facilitate Queer educational services and community wellness and are committed to healing historical harm. Galaei is dedicated to creating access, opportunities, sexual empowerment, and economic development for all QTBIPOC individuals while fighting systemic oppression, structural racism, discrimination, and white supremacy.

Galaei’s mission aligns with Ortiz’s research objectives to investigate sexual and gender minority health disparities, with a focus on the role of racial stratification in shaping substance use behaviors and deploying primarily quantitative research methods.

“Galaei's legacy of combating structural inequities faced by Philadelphian QTBIPOC communities, especially Afro-Latinx/a/o's confronting disproportionate criminal legal system exposure, makes Galaei an ideal community partner. Developing new strategies to dismantle systemic barriers, barriers that jeopardize the health of all Philadelphians, requires concerted investment in frontline community-based organizations like Galaei," said Ortiz.

Through this partnership, Galaei is leading a community-directed project aimed at mitigating harmful intergenerational consequences of substance-use oriented dynamics. Located in the Norris Square neighborhood of Philadelphia, Galaei's community familiarity offers new insights that can likely enhance access and treatment continuity for substance-use disorders. By centering community voices as change agents, in the development of empowering advocacy tools, the project aims to enhance policies across multiple geographic contexts.

Importantly, this partnership also aims to improve substance use/substance use disorders (SU/Ds) among Afro-Latinx/a/o Philadelphians. This includes improving the financial security and research and development (R&D) capacity readiness of Galaei and recognizing that most community-based organizations serving Black+ and Latinx+ populations have faced structural barriers that limit their ability to adequately serve their communities.

These types of partnerships are direly needed where community-directed research offers universities opportunities to reconcile histories where higher educational institutions have extracted from their local communities without sufficiently equipping the surrounding communities with resources and tools to overcome broader structural barriers.

In November, Galaei held an event honoring Trans Remembrance Day that included a Community Holiday Dinner Giveaway that Ortiz partook in. They provided turkeys, side dishes, toiletries, canned goods, produce, at-home covid tests, and safer sex items in West Philadelphia all free of charge. They also provided these items to residents of the Norris Square neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia, an area of the city facing a host of health challenges.

“Not realizing the unfortunate events that would occur in Colorado Springs, this event somberly honored Transgender populations lost to structural violence. In keeping with Galaei's mission to serve Philadelphia's queer BIPOC populations, the Community Holiday Dinner Giveaway impressively disseminated over 100 complete meals,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz looks forward to continued collaboration with Galaei through research and event participation.

To learn more about the nonprofit, visit For those interested in learning more about this transformative research or to get involved, feel free to reach out to Kasim Ortiz at For updates on this continued collaboration, be sure to subscribe to DSPH’s newsletter.