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Cindy Veldhuis Joins the ISGMH Faculty

We are thrilled to welcome Cindy Veldhuis, Ph.D., to the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) at Northwestern University. Veldhuis began her appointment as an assistant professor at ISGMH and the Department of Medical Social Sciences on September 1, 2022.

Veldhuis studies the health of sexual minority women (e.g., lesbian, bisexual, queer), an underresearched population that nevertheless experiences stark health disparities.

“Women’s health is important. And for me, it’s important to do research on women’s health, partially because some of the largest health disparities we see among LGBT people are among sexual minority women. My research focus is on alcohol use, and this is one of the largest areas of health disparities for sexual minority women. But when we look at the funding, there are far fewer funded studies on sexual minority women’s health,” said Veldhuis.

There are also fewer publications that look at sexual minority women’s health.

“In a study led by a Ph.D. student from Ohio University who is working with me, we are finding that the number of academic articles published about the health of most LGBT groups have been increasing over the past five or so years, but articles about sexual minority women have been consistent  over that same time period,” said Veldhuis.

Her current research focuses on sexual minority women’s romantic relationships and how relationships impact health and health behaviors. Veldhuis primarily studies cisgender women in relationships with other cisgender women. She and her research team at Columbia University also conducted pilot qualitative interviews among couples that included trans and nonbinary partners with the goal of informing a larger study.

“By interviewing couples, I want to understand the stressors and strengths of women’s relationships. How do relationships impact coping as couples and as individuals? What are the stressors for the couple itself, for the individuals separately, and how do those intermingle? And ultimately, I look at how broader influences on relationships, like families, social support, and discrimination against the couple, impact health and health behaviors,” said Veldhuis.

This research is funded by a K99/R00 NIH Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This award supported Veldhuis with two years of mentorship and training at the Columbia University School of Nursing, with an additional three years of funding as she has transitioned to Northwestern in a tenure track position.

Veldhuis is also interested in the ways researchers themselves are impacted by their work with minoritized populations. She recently published an article that teases out the ways LGBT researchers are affected by doing research on LGBT populations. “Doubly Marginalized: Addressing the Minority Stressors Experienced by LGBTQ+ Researchers Who Do LGBTQ+ Research” combines personal experiences and scientific research.

“It struck me that, as academics, we often talk about the impact of minority stressors on LGBT people, but rarely about how similar minority stressors impact us as academics. How do these stressors impact how we feel doing our work? How do they impact our careers and others perceptions of our work? Are there ways those stressors could heighten ‘impostor syndrome’ or make us feel more isolated compared to our cisgender, heterosexual peers? I found myself asking these questions about my own professional life, and wanted to explore whether they resonated with other LGBT academics,” said Veldhuis.

At ISGMH, Veldhuis will be continuing her work on sexual minority women’s health and diving deeper into the ways that relationships impact health.