Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has announced the creation of a new program, called the LGBT Health Initiative, whose goal is to improve the health and well-being of individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Since 1987, Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry has been home to the Division of HIV, which was recently expanded to become the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health and is directed by Anke Ehrhardt, Ph.D. The reformulated division, based at the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI), consists of the new LBGT Health Initiative, the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, and the New York/New Jersey AIDS Education and Training Center.
The division serves as a coordinating mechanism for all Columbia Department of Psychiatry faculty engaged with the study of gender and sexuality, while providing critically needed training support to residents, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, professional staff, and community members.
CUMC says the move to expand the Division of HIV is not intended to eliminate the focus on HIV studies. “HIV will remain as a critical component of our work, and the HIV Center will remain a key element of the division,” confirmed Ehrhardt when the division’s expansion was announced last July. “The expansion and reframing of the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health provides an opportunity for NYSPI and Columbia Psychiatry to take a major new step into an arena of health promotion in the context of gender and sexuality that includes the HIV epidemic but also extends far beyond.”
CUMC has tapped Walter Bockting, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and internationally known sexuality researcher, to serve as codirector of its new LGBT Health Initiative.
Columbia University Medical Center
CUMC recruited Walter Bockting, Ph.D., a leading expert on gender-identity development and transgender health issues, to serve as codirector of the initiative. “The recruitment of Dr. Bockting, a pioneer in research on transgenderism and the sexual health of various sexual and ethnic minority populations, represents a key step in this initiative,” said Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., APA president-elect, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at CUMC and director of the NYSPI, when Bockting’s appointment was announced. “Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Bockting was the first to assess and address the HIV prevention needs of the transgender community, to affirm a spectrum of gender diversity in the delivery of transgender care, and to conduct a national study of the U.S. transgender population,” Lieberman said.
Robert Kertzner, M.D., an adjunct associate research scientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, was a member of the organizing committee of the Columbia LGBT Health Initiative.
In an interview with Psychiatric News, he said that these are exciting times for this field of study: “I’m thrilled that a leading academic department of psychiatry has undertaken a commitment to advance knowledge, treatment, training, and policy analysis in LGBT health in an effort to address the effects of stigma in perpetuating health disparities and urgent health problems of mental health in LGBT-identified youth, transgender persons, older LGBT adults, and other underserved LGBT populations.” ■