Poised for Success: Reflections on ERA
It is with a heavy heart that after eight years at Howard Brown Health, I am stepping down from my position as Vice President of the Center for Education, Research, and Advocacy (ERA) to pursue my passion for maternal child health and reproductive justice. The transition is bittersweet, as I could not be more proud of all the division has accomplished and the strength of the workforce who will carry the torch for ERA in years to come. Since the inauguration of the Center for Education, Research and Advocacy in Howard Brown’s 2017-2020 Strategic Plan: Pursuing Excellence, the division has achieved important milestones advancing LGBTQ health equity.
In the last three years, ERA launched a community-engaged research program focused on the health needs of underrepresented transgender and gender non-binary (TGNB) communities. Establishing foundational collaborations such as the Four Corners: TGNB Health Research Advisory Project with FQHCs serving over 10,000 TGNB people nationwide, ERA is poised to respond to pressing community-identified research priorities such as, understanding the long term impact of gender-affirming care on patients’ health and wellness, developing interventions addressing mental health and trauma in TGNB communities, and evolving clinical practice to better respond to the reproductive health needs of gender diverse people.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, ERA’s clinical and social-behavioral research programs have worked alongside Howard Brown’s healthcare teams in the field. They have evaluated promising interventions in real-time, such as the impact of telehealth and other virtual interventions, and supported the development of COVID-19 testing devices and partnerships in vaccine research, to help curb this pandemic.
In three years, ERA’s education program trained 6,500 healthcare professionals in 19 states to better understand and address LGBTQ health disparities and implement gender-affirming healthcare practices. ERA’s Midwest LGBTQ Symposium now attracts over 500 healthcare professionals nationwide to share innovative best practices in LGBTQ health and continues to grow each year. This year, the education team launched a new technical assistance program. It focused on building capacity among Illinois Federally Qualified Health Centers to scale up contact tracing programs during the pandemic. In one of the most critical election years of our lifetimes, ERA’s advocacy program made over 20,000 contacts with LGBTQ and other disenfranchised populations to share critical information about the U.S. Census and get out the vote for the 2020 General Election.
ERA has a bright future, taking on some of the most critical topics on LGBTQ health today, such as accessibility of culturally competent mental health services, building the future LGBTQ health workforce, and further expanding the research portfolio to address the needs of underrepresented LGBTQ populations. Please stay tuned to the Howard Brown blog for breaking ERA news.
In my stead, ERA is moving full speed ahead. I am proud to announce that Sarah Rittner will be serving as Interim VP, Center for Education Research and Advocacy. Sarah will continue important work advancing LGBTQ health equity with the ERA leadership team.
In health and justice,
VP, Center for Education Research and Advocacy (2017-2020)
Quality Improvement (2014-2017)
Ryan White Federal Grants Management (2012-2014)