Picture of Dr. Brian Mustanski, ISGMH Director, sitting smiling at his desk.

Dr. Brian Mustanski, ISGMH Director

Welcome to the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, the largest institute in the U.S. to focus on sexual and gender minority (SGM) health research.

ISGMH was founded in 2015, during a critical period in LGBTQ history. That same year, the Supreme Court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage. Commenting on the history of the case, former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy shared that it was borne out of the LGBTQ movement’s pursuit for “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

Marriage equality was an important step in a long pursuit for dignity. Yet, despite progress in legal rights and changing social attitudes, it was increasingly clear that that same dignity was severely lacking in one of the most crucial aspects of our lives – our health and wellbeing. In response to emerging calls for SGM health research, Northwestern launched ISGMH to catalyze SGM health research through thought leadership and innovative science.

As director of ISGMH, I lead a team of researchers dedicated to using research to advance health equity for SGM people on a national scale. Our research reveals mounting evidence that SGM communities face severe health disparities, from HIV, to diabetes, to depression, with limited access to care. Much of the research we have conducted is unprecedented and provides desperately needed insights to inform how we can close these gaps.

In 2016, the National Institutes of Health formally recognized the SGM community as a health disparity population for research purposes, opening up new doors for research funding. To date, the majority of that funding has gone towards HIV research on gay and bisexual men, among whom HIV diagnoses continue to increase. However, research on the entire SGM community is critical to understanding the extent and depth of these disparities. For example, lesbian and bisexual identified women are far less likely to receive cancer prevention services. Transgender people are more likely to be uninsured and avoid health care because of discrimination. This is why ISGMH is expanding our research areas to prioritize the unmet needs of women, bi people, and trans people.

SGM representation isn’t only lacking in terms of study populations – it’s lacking in the STEM workforce. Due to structural discrimination and bias in the workplace, SGM people are leaking from the STEM pipeline. To counter this, ISGMH is committed to recruiting a diverse workforce and supporting the education of the next generation of SGM scholars and healthcare providers.

At ISGMH, we are working to expand the field of SGM health research. We are striving to create a home for SGM research and researchers, because we know that representation is crucial to SGM health equity. As Dr. Perez Stable so aptly stated when designating SGM communities as a disparity population for research, it is “is an important and necessary step to realizing our mission to advance the health of all Americans.”

I welcome you to explore our work, participate in our programming, and support our critical mission.