Former ISGMH Research Fellow Liz McConnell Wins Dissertation Award

Liz McConnell, Ph.D., who completed a research fellowship with ISGMH in 2018, was awarded the Emory L. Cowen Dissertation Award for the Promotion of Wellness by the Society for Community Research and Action, a division of the American Psychological Association.

In her dissertation, “Race-Related Social Contextual Factors, Substance Use, and HIV Among Young Men Who Have Sex with Men in Chicago,” McConnell sought to increase understanding of the many drivers responsible for the disproportionate impact of HIV among Black young men who have sex with men (YMSM).

McConnell took a multiphase, mixed methods approach using both quantitative and qualitative approaches in which she visualized network and geospatial data from ISGMH’s RADAR project cohort, which is a longitudinal cohort of nearly 1200 YMSM representative of the ethnic/racial demographics of Chicago. After creating these data visualizations, McConnell shared them in interviews with a subset of Black, White, and Latino participants, and used a grounded theory approach to understand participants’ reactions and interpretations of the data. Studies that utilize a ground theory approach begin by trying to understand what questions to ask before centering on a specific hypothesis. This approach allowed her to incorporate the voices and lived experiences of these young men into her research and yielded rich findings clearly illustrating the many different factors that create racial disparities in this population.

This project was supported by an NRSA (F31) fellowship from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. ISGMH faculty member Michelle Birkett, Ph.D., was McConnell’s primary sponsor during the fellowship.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive this award and for the support Michelle Birkett and Leonard Jason provided during my fellowship,” said McConnell.

McConnell is now a tenure-track assistant professor at Palo Alto University, where she is a core faculty member in the Center for LGBTQ Evidence Based Applied Research (CLEAR) and a clinical supervisor in the Sexual and Gender Identities Clinic.

Congratulations, Dr. McConnell!