Data Science & SGM Health Equity Paper Competition Winners Announced

UPDATE: RSVP here for the Current Issues in LGBTQ Health event featuring CONNECT Paper Competition Winners on Thursday, August 27 from 12:00-1:30pm CT.


The Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) is dedicated to fostering innovative, multidisciplinary research to improve sexual and gender minority (SGM) health. For the second year in a row, ISGMH’s CONNECT Research Program held the Data Science & SGM Health Equity Paper Competition to stimulate student research at the intersection of data science and SGM health equity. Students, young professionals, activists, and emerging researchers were invited to submit papers to the competition. The submissions were carefully evaluated across a rubric that considered innovation, strength of the argument and analysis, writing quality, and the overall potential impact of the paper on the fields of data science and SGM health.

For more information about the competition, please see the call for submissions here.

We are delighted to announce the competition winners below:

Isabel Sturla
Medical graduate student, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Exploring risk and protective factors in suicidality for Hispanic/Latino LGBTQ+ populations in the United States

​“My passion for this project comes from what I see in my community and in the world. Health disparities research has been great at identifying issues that disproportionately affect marginalized groups, but there is much less understanding of what people who identify with multiple marginalized groups face when it comes to their health and wellbeing. My research aims to more accurately study the reality of LGBTQ+ Latinx people when it comes to their mental health. In my investigation, I hope to collaborate with others who are interested in expanding health disparities research. I want to encourage our field to make sure the information we have can be applied to all types of people, without leaving those with intersectional identities behind.”

Dylan Felt
Master of Public Health graduate student, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Research Project Coordinator, Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH), Northwestern University
What we ask about when we ask about gender: Theory, practice, and praxis of transgender data collection

“I’m passionate about this work because, for too long, transgender people have been disregarded, and even flat-out dehumanized, by researchers and academics. From mistakes as simple as failing to include us in a study of “LGBT people” to the history (and in some circles, present) of sexological research which paints us as paraphilic aberrations which should be cured, rather than human beings whose lives should be valued and celebrated, the history of research with transgender people is often painful and cruel. Although the academy has finally come around to the importance of conducting culturally responsive research with trans populations, we’re still getting a lot wrong. For this paper, I wanted to start with the fundamentals: how we’re capturing demographic information on transgender identity. My goal in this case was to shift away from presenting a standardized approach to transgender demographic measurement, and instead focus on educating readers about the nuances and variations in how transgender people label and describe ourselves. My hope is that this will serve to encourage cisgender allies in the academy to engage head-on with the complexities of research with transgender populations, and to become better, active allies themselves through their work.”

Sandra Isano
Programs Project Manager at Viamo Inc.
Barriers to Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) use among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) in sub-Saharan Africa: An online cross-sectional survey

“‘You are cursed.’ ‘You are the devil’s advocate.’ These are some of the labels the majority of people who identify themselves as LGBTQ in my community have. I come from a region where belonging to the LGBTQ community is perceived as an abomination. The majority of people I know who came out to either their relatives or parents state that they were abandoned or kicked out of their homes. Many sexual and gender minorities do not have access to basic health care. Moreover, stigma and discrimination decrease their proclivity to seek out existing healthcare prevention services. I am passionate about this work because I believe that health is a human right and that everyone deserves to live a healthy and dignified life irrespective of sexual orientation. Therefore, my hope is that through research and sharing my work with institutions like ISGMH and others, I can potentially contribute to a reduction of the most pressing health disparities affecting sexual and gender minorities.”

We would like to extend our warmest congratulations to Isabel, Dylan, and Sandra and thank all those who submitted papers to the competition! Our winners will be presenting their work at a future ISGMH event; more details will be shared closer to the date.