Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, recently received the inaugural Sexual and Gender Minority Research Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The award recognizes early stage investigators who have made substantial contributions related to sexual and gender minority, also known as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transitioning and queer/questioning), health.
“At VUMC, we have undertaken a variety of foundational research efforts to advance our understanding of sexual and gender minority health,” said Dr. Ehrenfeld, professor of anesthesiology, surgery, biomedical informatics and health policy.
“This has included a portfolio of community-engaged LGBTQ research, the development and application of informatics tools, and a series of studies evaluating the impact of state and federal health policy on LGBTQ health.”
Dr. Ehrenfeld said much of his work has been to understand how to implement strategies to reduce and eliminate LGBTQ health disparities. He said he believes it is time to move beyond simply measuring gaps in health and begin to understand how to optimize health in the LGBTQ community.
“Much of our team’s work has been to use a community-engaged approach to design and test interventions,” Dr. Ehrenfeld explained. “A community-based approach really leverages the knowledge and insights drawn from community members to develop and disseminate interventions.”
Another part of Dr. Ehrenfeld’s work is to study the most effective way to deliver health care services to LGBTQ individuals.
“Unfortunately, many sexual and gender minority patients, even those that have access to health insurance and the ability to come into the health care system for care, simply choose not to because they are concerned about discrimination or have had negative experiences in the past,” he said.
One key effort has been around studying how to improve institutional environments and health care teams’ abilities to provide care for sexual and gender minority patients.
“One of the most wonderful things about being at VUMC is support of my mentors, my department and the institution overall to apply our research expertise to the emerging field of sexual and gender minority health,” he said. “I am grateful, not just for the award, but also for all opportunities I have had working at VUMC. It is clear that Vanderbilt has a priority on improving health equity and advancing LGBTQ health.”