Columbia University Medical Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell

Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health

Anke Ehrhardt, PhD, Chief

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The Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health (Director: Anke A. Ehrhardt, Ph.D.) is based in the Columbia Department of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Formerly known as the Division of HIV, the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health was expanded and renamed in 2012 to reflect the full scope of its research studies, educational initiatives, and the expertise of its investigators. The Division also 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. The Division comprises:

•    approximately 35 publicly and privately funded studies focusing on gender, sexuality, and mental health, particularly as these relate to HIV prevention and care;
•    more than two dozen investigators from diverse disciplines who hold Columbia faculty and/or research appointments, as well as postdoctoral fellows and nearly 100 affiliated faculty in the US and abroad;
•    an NIMH P30 Center grant (the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies)providing an infrastructure of six Cores that support our research;
•    another major Center (the NY/NJ AIDS Education and Training Center), which serves HIV care providers throughout the tri-state area;
•    an LGBT Health Initiative incorporating research, clinical care, education, and policy components; and
•    an NIMH T32 postdoctoral fellowship program focused on HIV behavioral research in the context of human sexuality, along with other training activities.

Launch of the LGBT Health Initiative
In September 2012, the Division launched its first major new project, the “LGBT Health Initiative.” The vision of the Initiative is to focus on health and wellness in a world that respects diversity in gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation, in which LGBT people and their families can have access to competent health and mental health care. To realize this vision, we are building a comprehensive understanding of the development of gender identity and sexual orientation in interaction with the social environment. This encompasses: characteristics and health status of the LGBT population; risk, protective factors, and resilience; effective interventions and treatments; and evidence for transgender-specific health care needs. Scientific evidence is also needed to inform public policies designed to end the stigma, discrimination, and violence encountered by LGBT people and their families.   

The LGBT Health Initiative will promote the health and wellness of LGBT persons through four major program components: research, clinical care, education, and public policy. Through the Initiative, our researchers, clinicians, and educators are identifying practice implications of research on LGBT health and mental health. We are bringing evidence-based teaching to undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate students; conduct continuing medical and community-based education; and mentor research fellows and future teachers. We are also contributing to innovative policy development, applied to the protection of LGBT health and rights. The work of the Initiative will be conducted at Columbia University, in New York City and State, nationally, and internationally.

The first major activity of the Initiative was the recruitment and hiring, of the Initiative’s Co-Director, of Walter O. Bockting, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and an internationally known sexuality researcher. Among Dr. Bockting’s many accomplishments, he was the first to assess and address the HIV prevention needs of the transgender community, developing a model HIV prevention workshop;to affirm a spectrum of gender diversity in the delivery of transgender care;and to conduct a national study of the U.S. transgender population. The Initiative also created a Steering Committee including faculty from the Division as well as representatives from the Columbia University School of Nursing (which is a partner in the Initiative) and other representatives from the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).

The Initiative has undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the research, clinical, and educational needs at CUMC with regard to LGBT health. The Initiative’s Organizing Committee met with faculty and other leaders across CUMC, revealing many needs and great openness to address these needs. Identified priorities for the Initiative include capacity building in clinical settings, particularly those serving children, adolescents, and their families, where questions and concerns related  toLGBT issues are common while expertise is sorely lacking. Consultation / liaison services and targeted didactics are provided to improve the ability to respond to these concerns. Research priorities include the adaptation and testing of an Inter-Personal Therapy (IPT) approach for LGBT adolescents with depression and a multi-site longitudinal cohort study to advance our understanding of transgender identity development.  Educational priorities include plans to establish LGBT health fellowships in Psychiatry as well as an LGBT health elective for medical students.  In the area of policy, the Initiative will focus on policies affecting family life and school climate; gender-based violence; and the impact of health care reform on access to care for LGBT people.

In celebration of this cutting-edge and much needed expansion of health services for the LGBT community, the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots hosted a special one-night-only event at the show on March 20th.  CLICK HERE to view event photos.

Renewal of the HIV Center
In February 2013, the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies was renewed by NIMH for the five-year period, 2013 to 2018. The renewed Center highlights new leadership, new research Cores, expanded linkages with the NYC and NYS health departments, and new affiliated investigators.

Since its inception in 1987, the HIV Center has cultivated a collaborative team of researchers with multiple and complementary areas of scientific and managerial expertise. Three of these investigators are serving as the new leadership team of the P30, all of whom have been affiliated with the Center for over 20 years. The HIV Center’s new Director is Robert H. Remien, Ph.D., who as Principal Investigator of major NIH grants has developed US and international interventions for adherence to HIV care, treatment, and prevention. The two new Co-Directors are Alex Carballo-Diéguez, Ph.D., whose research has focused on HIV risk among men who have sex with men (MSM),and Claude Ann Mellins, Ph.D., whose research focuses on HIV-affected children and families. The HIV Center’s founder and director from 1987-2013, Anke A. Ehrhardt, Ph.D., has continued as Research Chief of the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health.

The HIV Center mobilizes a diverse and multidisciplinary cadre of senior scientists, early stage investigators, practitioners, and policy-makers from a range of academic, community and public health venues to prevent new infections, improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reduce health disparities. The renewed HIV Center includes investigators from within the Division and from other schools and departments at Columbia University as well as colleagues from other New York institutions including the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York University, Hunter College, the New York State AIDS Institute, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  

The HIV Center comprises an Administrative Core and the following five Research:
•    The Development Core, which effects internal peer review and quality assurance, coordinates the Pilot Studies Program for development of high-impact multi-disciplinary research, and fosters capacity-building activities for Early Stage Investigators. (Director: Heino Meyer-Bahlburg, Dr. rer. nat.; Co-Director: Claude Ann Mellins, Ph.D.)
•    The Intervention Science Core, which provides expertise on intervention development and assessment, integration of biomedical and behavioral approaches, and community-based participatory research. (Director: Laurie Bauman, Ph.D.; Co-Directors: Betsy Herold. M.D., and Susan Tross, Ph.D.)
•    The Statistics, Epidemiology, and Data Management (SED) Core, which provides expertise in research design, quantitative statistical analyses, and state-of-the-art data collection and management. (Director: Bruce Levin, Ph.D.; Co-Director: Howard Andrews, Ph.D.)
•    The Public Health Practice and Policy (PHPP) Core, which maximizes the public health impact of HIV Center research through implementation science and practice innovation and the identification and analysis of ethical and policy influences on outcomes of research. (Director: Mary McKay, Ph.D.; Co-Directors: Ronald Bayer, Ph.D., and Denis Nash, Ph.D.)
•    The New Media Core, which builds investigators’ capacity to integrate new media and information technologies into HIV research and to focus on these environments as areas in need of study. (Director: Alex Carballo-Diéguez, Ph.D.)

In the next five years, the HIV Center will advance the science of HIV prevention, treatment, and care by providing the building blocks of new combination prevention strategies, concentrating on the roles of mental health, sexual behavior, gender, and health disparities;realizing the full potential of biomedical HIV prevention and treatment strategies through application of behavioral and social science theory and research; and using principles of implementation science to maximize the public health impact of new HIV prevention and care strategies and to close the gaps among research, practice, and policy.

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