Gender, Sexuality, and Health

Overview

Gender, Sexuality, and Health 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 area includes the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, the Program for the Study of LGBT Health, the Northeast/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center, and the Master of Bioethics Program.

Faculty members work closely with other branches of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University School of Nursing, and Mailman School of Public Health. In addition, there are strong connections to the Columbia University School of Social Work and the clinical care centers of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC).

Goals

  • To prevent new HIV infections, improve health outcomes, and reduce disparities by advancing our understanding of individual, social, contextual, and structural factors influencing outcomes along the HIV prevention and care continuum
  • To translate HIV research into culturally and contextually sound evidence-based interventions and structurally competent practices and policies
  • To provide multidisciplinary education and training programs and capacity-building assistance for healthcare providers and systems treating persons living with HIV/AIDS
  • To promote the health and wellness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, their families and communities through research, clinical practice, education and training, and innovative policy development

Current Research

  • Now in its 31st year, the HIV Center continues to provide a rigorous, theoretically-grounded behavioral and social science foundation for robust, innovative research, training and education. The work is supported by a large number of individual federal and private foundation research and training grants.
  • A clinical specialty model program to provide comprehensive, interdisciplinary care to transgender and nonbinary individuals in custody in NYS correctional facilities. In collaboration with OMH providers, our team provides assessment and treatment of gender dysphoria and mental health comorbidities using state of the art telemedicine. We provide cultural and clinical competency training for staff and evaluate the program’s effectiveness.
  • A longitudinal, multi-site study of transgender identity development across the lifespan, identifying modifiable factors or resilience to promote the health and wellbeing of the transgender population.
  • Transgender people in the workforce: Building capacity to increase employment, a project to examine barriers and facilitators to employment for transgender and nonbinary youth and young adults.
  • A research program in developmental psychoendocrinology with a focus on intersexuality.
  • An in-depth examination of the social support networks of LGBT adults to better understand their role in the development of cognitive reserve and resilience.
  • A study to examine the effects of puberty suppression using GnRH on sexual differentiation, depression, and aging using a rodent model relevant for clinical practice.

Programs and Centers

HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies

Directed by Robert H. Remien, PhD, the HIV Center at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University was established in 1987 as one of the first National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) AIDS research centers. The mission of the HIV Center is to prevent new HIV infections, improve health outcomes, and reduce disparities by advancing our understanding of individual, social, contextual, and structural factors influencing outcomes along the HIV prevention and care continuum. Further, the center aims to translate this research into culturally and contextually sound evidence-based interventions and structurally competent practices and policies for maximum public health impact, and to increase the capacity of current and future generations of scientists, service providers, and community and policy leaders. The HIV Center is coordinating U.S.-based research and has had an international footprint with research projects in many countries; currently with partnerships in Argentina, Kenya, Thailand, Belgium, and most importantly, South Africa.

The HIV Center has been continuously funded over the last 30 years, 25 of which Anke A. Ehrhardt, PhD, served as principal investigator before transitioning the leadership to several of her long-time colleagues, most recently Robert Remien, PhD and Claude Mellins, PhD. The HIV Center was just re-funded for the next five years. Affiliated with the HIV Center is an HIV Center Postdoctoral Training Program (Director: Theodorus Sandfort, PhD) that has trained, since 1989, 84 fellows, with six currently enrolled. The postdoctoral research training program provides innovative training in sexuality, gender, and mental health research as applied to HIV prevention and HIV treatment and care across populations in both national and global contexts.

Visit the HIV Center

Program for the Study of LGBT Health

The Program for the Study of LGBT Health promotes the health and wellness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families and communities, through research, clinical practice, education and training, and innovative policy development. The program was launched in 2012 by the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health at the NYS Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, in collaboration with the Columbia University School of Nursing.

Visit the LGBT Health Program

Columbia Gender Identity Program

Our specialized interdisciplinary team across Columbia University Irving Medical Center offers services ranging from psychotherapy and medication management to hormone therapy and surgery. We utilize an evidence-based approach to mental health care that is focused on instilling pride and celebration of gender diversity. Our services are designed to help transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming children, adolescents, adults, and their families by facilitating identity development, social support, and self-acceptance across the lifespan. Our clinic also serves cisgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer youth to promote their mental health and wellbeing.

Visit the Columbia Gender Identity Program

Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT)

SHIFT is an innovative and comprehensive research project that examines the individual, interpersonal, and structural factors that shape sexual health and sexual violence for undergraduates at Columbia University, led by Claude Ann Mellins, PhD and Jennifer S. Hirsch, PhD (Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health). Using an ecological model and mixed-methods, SHIFT’s research explores how factors beyond the individual level impact student wellbeing. SHIFT’s research has included a population-based survey of 2,500 students that obtained a 67% response rate, a 16-month ethnographic study, and a 60-day quantitative daily diary study. Findings from the project will generate insights into the modifiable individual, interpersonal, and institutional drivers of vulnerability to sexual assault.

Visit the Sexual Health Initiative

Northeast/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC)

AETC is a multi-site training program housed within the HIV Center. Previously focused solely on New York and New Jersey, the AETC expanded both in scope and territory in the fall of 2015 to include Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. As part of a national network of eight regional and three national centers, the Northeast/Caribbean AETC conducts targeted, multidisciplinary education and training programs and capacity-building assistance for healthcare providers and systems treating persons living with HIV/AIDS. Its training approach includes a focus on practice transformation and interprofessional education. The overall goal is to build regional capacity to provide accessible, high quality treatment and service that addresses HIV and its comorbidities and improves outcomes along the HIV continuum of care.

VIsit Northeast Caribbean AIDS Education