Reportout from NIH’s 1st LGBTI Listening Session


Scout, Ph.D.
Director, The Fenway Institute’s Network for LGBT Health Equity

Sometimes you have throwaway days, then sometimes you have really high impact ones, right? Well, today was about as high impact as it gets. Myself and others have been nudging NIH to open communications with LGBTI researchers for years and today I had the distinct pleasure of being in the room as they launched their first ever LGBTI research listening session. Considering the agency has about $30 billion dollars in research funds, and considering they are easily the leading health research institution in the world, I’d say anytime we get to talk LGBTI health with the top mgmt for an hour and a half is pretty useful. Understand, many LGBTI researchers never even get to speak to these folk once. We got to sit there and yak and yak about what our experiences as researchers and advocates leads us to prioritize. And we heard there were over a hundred more watching and sending in comments on the videocast.

The day held a few pleasant surprises too.

  1. First, NIH hired a new guy who’s in charge of getting more LGBTI staff on board, Albert Smith. Literally his business card reads “LGBTI Program Manager” at NIH. Pretty sweet eh? Since we know how internal champions really move issues, now’s the time for us to recruit great new folk to NIH. (see info about working there here)
  2. Second, NIH just added gender identity to their nondiscrimination protections, w00t!
  3. Third, NIH really showed their commitment to keeping the information flowing by announcing that they had just released an RFI, or Request For Information. This literally declares it open season for all of us to give our input on LGBTI health research from now til late October. See the RFI here.
NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak, their new LGBTI Program Manager Arnold Smith, and Scout
NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak, their new LGBTI Program Manager Albert! Smith, and Scout

Of course everyone there brought up excellent suggestions: invest in career development; collect data; designate LGBTI as a legal disparity population (or at least tell us where the bar’s set to achieve that designation); create an office of LGBTI health; fund more tobacco research; recruit reviewers educated in these topics; do more on Two Spirit, intersex, transgender people; look at intersectionality more; put out anal cancer guidelines, and on. If you weren’t one of the hundred plus watching online… they’ll put the full webcast up in a few days, and we’ll update this post with the link.

OK, time for all of us to sharpen our pens. Because in my mind it’s like if you don’t vote in an election, you lose the chance to grouse. When there’s this big and broad a call for us to say what is needed in LGBTI health, we all should speak up now or forever hold our peace, right?

In case people are looking for ideas to suggest, we’ll share our input – as soon as we think it up!

Published by Dr. Scout

Vegetarian biking small town transgender father of 3 feisty teens in real life, Director of Network for LGBT Health Equity in pro life.

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