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Division News



CUMC Professors Jennifer S. Hirsch and Claude Ann Mellins to Co-Lead SHIFT Research Study to Reduce Sexual Violence among Undergraduates


A major new research initiative has been launched under the leadership of two Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) professors from the Departments of Sociomedical Sciences and Psychiatry: Jennifer S. Hirsch, Ph.D. , a medical anthropologist, and Claude Ann Mellins, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist.  The study is entitled the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation or “SHIFT.”


“As we work to address gender-based misconduct, our highest priority remains to prevent sexual violence before it occurs,” noted University President Lee Bollinger, J.D., in his announcement of the initiative“But to do this most effectively, we need to help remedy what is a national deficit

in evidence-based information relevant to creating the most effective prevention programs and policies.  This study, focused on undergraduate life at Columbia, also will consider more broadly what can be done to promote healthy relationships and identify important risk factors that must be addressed in order to establish a safer and more protective environment.”


Dr. Hirsch is Professor and Deputy Chair of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, where Dr. Mellins has a secondary appointment. Dr. Mellins is Professor of Medical Psychology in the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health in the Department of Psychiatry, and also Co-Director of the Office of Clinical Psychology at CUMC.  Both Drs. Mellins and Hirsch are also longstanding researchers with the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute; at the HIV Center, Dr. Mellins is Co-Director and Dr. Hirsch is an Investigator. Both have served as principal investigators of NIH-funded studies and have led training programs at Columbia. Dr. Hirsch is also incoming Co-Director, as of July 2015, of the NIH-funded Columbia Population Research Center.


Drs. Hirsch and Mellins (pictured from right to left above), who are joint Co-Principal Investigators of the study, are assembling a research team from throughout the university comprised of a diverse group of faculty with expertise in gender, sexual health, sexual violence, young adult development, mental health, trauma, and the use of research to develop evidence-based programs and policies directed at behavioral change.  In addition, to account for the diverse experiences and perspectives of students, faculty, and administrators, they will consult regularly with the study’s Student and Institutional Advisory Boards. 


“We are fortunate to be able to assemble these intellectual resources from our own community,” added President Bollinger, “and to have the leadership of Professors Hirsch and Mellins, who possess a mix of intellectual acuity and energy for the project that, undoubtedly, will allow this initiative to make a substantial contribution to preventing sexual violence at Columbia and on campuses across the nation.”

(Photo: Eve Vagg)



Panel on "Trans Health Care from the Inside Out" features trans-identified providers



Above, left to right: Panelists Nathan Levitt, Laura Jacobs, Jack Pula, and moderator Laura Erickson-Schroth.


Below: participants in the event, many drawn from one of the co-sponsoring organizations: Queer and Ally Partnership (CUMC), the LGBT Health Initiative (CUMC), Center for Student Wellness (CUMC), Queer Health Task Force (Public Health), Queer Caucus (Social Work), Nursing Students for Reproductive Health (Nursing), Lambda Health Alliance (P&S), Sexuality and Medicine Club (P&S).




Photos by Michael Hernandez, P&S 2017.

Speaking as members of the transgender community, as health care providers, and as recipients of transgender-related health care in New York City, three panelists offered their insights at an event entitled "Trans Health Care from the Inside Out" on March 6, 2015.


A crowd of nearly 100 from throughout Columbia University and the larger community -- many who were themselves future health care providers and/or LGBT-identified -- joined the discussion. The panel was co-sponsored by the LGBT Health Initiative.


Laura A. Jacobs, L.C.S.W.-R., a psychotherapist working with LGBTQ and sexual/gender minority populations, offered a perspective from the field of social work. She raised particular awareness of the needs of clients who identify as "gender-queer," as well as those lives may include a wide range of sexual practices.


Nathan Levitt, R.N., a registered nurse at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and a training consultant at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, shared experiences from working on nursing wards. He explained why nurses must acquire the "cultural competence" to identify trans-related health needs, such as prostate exams for transwomen and pap smears for transmen.


Jack Pula, M.D., a psychiatrist in private practice and an investigator with the LGBT Health Initiative, offered accounts of treating transgender patients with mental illness and also discussed the experience of his own gender transition while working as a physician at Columbia University Medical Center.


All three panelists are also contributors to the landmark book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, a resource guide for transgender populations, covering health, legal issues, cultural and social questions, history, theory, and more. The book's editor, Laura Erickson-Schroth, M.D., M.A., a Fellow with the LGBT Health Initiative, moderated the panel.











Events during the week of December 1, 2014 to mark World AIDS Day at Columbia University and throughout New York City and State





This year to mark World AIDS Day, HIV Center Rounds will feature Sharon Hillier, Ph.D., of University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine speaking on the topic of "Topical ARVs to Prevent HIV."


This will be just one event of a number that will feature our investigators, collaborators, and colleagues from throughout Columbia University, New York, City, and New York State. These include the following:



HIV & Ebola: Fear versus Evidence

Join a conversation on HIV and Ebola: Similarities, differences, lessons learned

Welcome by Dean Linda Fried (Mailman School of Public Health)

Moderated by Wafaa El-Sadr (ICAP at Columbia University)

Invited Speakers: Emmanuel d'Harcour (International Rescue Committee), Gregg Gonsalves (Yale Global  

Health Justice Partnership); Imam Soleimane Konate (Masjid Aqsa, Harlem), and Jay K. Varma (NYCDOHMH)


Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 2:00-4:00 pm (new time)
Hess Commons, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, 722 W. 168th Street



The RED Ball: Remembering. Empowering. Doing.

In commemoration and celebration of World AIDS Day, NYC Health and its community partners will hold the first ever RED Ball, an opportunity for us to celebrate life while remembering friends we've lost in the fight against HIV.


With: Ana Matronic, DJ Seth Ninja, DJ Sammy Jo, DJ Byrell, Dashaun Williams and Symba


Monday, December 1 (6:00-11:00pm)

The OUT NYC, 510 West 42nd Street, New York, NY

The event is free and open to the public. Bring your friends!




PrEP/Truvada: Redefining HIV/AIDS Prevention
Come to hear a panel on PrEP and its potential for HIV/AIDS p[revention in NYC and globally.


Panelists include: Demetre Daskalakis (NYCDPHMH), Wafaa El-Sadr (ICAP at Columbia University), Laura Pinsky (Gay Health Advocacy Project -- GHAP); James Krellenstein (ACT UP). Moderated by Daniel Chiarilli (GHAP)

Tuesday, December 2, 4:00pm-6:00pm

Altschul Auditorium (Room 417), International Affairs Building (SIPA), Columbia University




Be Part of the Plan to End AIDS in New York State

Visit information booths, participate in many scheduled discussions. Free confidential HIV testing.


Events include:

“Let’s Talk About Empowering Ourselves”
“Ending the Epidemic”
“PrEP: Provider and Community Voices - Sorting through the Noise”
“Recognizing HIV Heroes/Sheroes”
" World AIDS Day 2014 Commissioner’s Special Recognition Awards Ceremony"
“Human Video” Theater Performance
“Let’s Talk About Sexual Health Rights!”
“Building Partnerships”
“Let Us Remember”
"Candlelight Vigil"
“Let’s Talk About Empowering Ourselves”
“Sexual Health Care Rights”
"Minors and Health Care"
“Save A Life: Community Opioid Overdose Training”



December 1, 2014 – December 2, 2014
Empire State Plaza Convention Hall - Albany, New York

Concourse Meeting Rooms 4 & 5
Monday, December 1 - 9 am-7 pm
Tuesday, December 2 - 9 am-2 pm
Free and Open to the Public


To access further information about this event, click here.


To access a complete listing of World AIDS Day events sponsored by community organizations in New York City and State, click here.


To access information about an event sponsored by the NYC World AIDS Day Coalition, click here.


 To view the HIV Center's World AIDS Day message, click here.





HIV Center researchers named to Task Force to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State


Four investigators with the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies have been named by Governor Andrew Cuomo as members of a Task Force that will work to implement the Governor’s plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York.


The Task Force will support the effort to reduce the number of new HIV infections to 750 per year by 2020. Its members include Psychiatry Department Professors Robert H. Remien, Ph.D. and Alex Carballo-Diéguez, Ph.D., (pictured from left to right) who are Director and Co-Director, respectively, of the HIV Center, based in the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health at Columbia Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.


The members of the Task Force also include two members of the HIV Center’s Public Health Policy and Practice Core: Denis Nash, Ph.D., who is the Core’s Co-Director and an associate professor of public health at Hunter College, and Don DesJarlais, Ph.D., a Core investigator and professor of clinical psychology (in psychiatry) at Columbia. A range of other experts and community advocates from throughout New York State round out the panel’s 63-person membership.


Dr. Remien, who is Co-chair of the Task Force’s Data Subcommittee, stated that “We have the knowledge and we have the tools to dramatically reduce new infections and improve the health of people living with HIV. The development of this Governor’s Task Force represents the determination and will to have a significant impact in New York State.


“However, there is hard work ahead, and it will take sustained effort and resources to address the multiple sub-epidemics among the most vulnerable populations in our communities.  This is an important moment in time, and I am hopeful that we can make a difference by putting forth a model of action that will move us towards the beginning of the end of the HIV epidemic across the country and around the world.”


The Governor’s plan seeks to decrease new HIV infections to the point where the number of people living with HIV in New York State is reduced for the first time. The end of the AIDS epidemic in New York will occur when the total number of new HIV infections has fallen below the number of HIV-related deaths. The plan focuses on identifying persons with HIV who remain undiagnosed; linking all infected people to HIV health care and getting them on HIV care to keep them healthy and to prevent new infections; and providing high-risk HIV-negative individuals with access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).                                                                          (Photo by Eve Vagg)






“Grey is the New Pink” event launches program for LGBT elders



On October 20, five panelists discussed the challenges of caring for LGBT elders at an event organized by the Office of Diversity and Cultural Affairs of the Columbia University School of Nursing. Th event was attended by more than 100 students, faculty, and guests.


Entitled “Grey is the New Pink: Caring for LGBT Elders,” the panel marked the launch of the new Elder LGBT Interprofessional Collaborative Care (E-LINC) Program, an evidence-based, culturally appropriate interprofessional collaborative practice (IPCP) model designed to meet the health needs of older LGBT adults in New York City.

The keynote address was provided by E-LINC Project Director Dr. Jeffrey Kwong (at left above) of the School of Nursing, and the panel was moderated by E-LINC Associate Director Dr. Walter Bockting (at right above), who has a joint appointment in Psychiatry and Nursing. Dr. Kwong noted that today's elder LGBT population grew up contending with deep discrimination and lived through the worst of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Today, many LGBT elders lack the kinds of support needed to manage aging-related health problems and face discrimination in the delivery of health care -- all of which contribute to serious health disparities among this population.


The panelists (pictured at center, from left to right) were Catherine Thurston of the community partner agency SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders); Dr. Sigrid Gabler, a nurse practitioner with the E-LINC program; and Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt, Director of the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health at Columbia Psychiatry. The panelists offered opening comments, and then answered questions from the audience, on a range of topics including the swift growth in demand for care programs for LGBT elders, continuing institutional obstacles and interpersonal discrimination, and the particular needs of LGBT elders who are transgender or who are members of ethnic and racial minorities.

E-LINC is an innovative, multi-component program that includes a health and wellness component, a community and transitional care component, and a primary care and mental health component. The program is creating a practice environment that highlights the value of team-based care and collaborative problem-solving to address the needs of an underserved population. The E-LINC Program will serve a critical role by providing preventive and direct care services to those in need, and will assist in the coordination of care for a vulnerable and often invisible population. This IPCP program will also serve as a mechanism to prepare nursing and other health professional students and residents in both interprofessional collaborative practice as well as LGBT culturally competent care.
To read more about the E-LINC Program, please click here.


Drs. Ehrhardt and Bockting are, respectively, the Director and Co-Director of the LGBT Health Initiative, which is a collaboration between the School of Nursing and the Department of Psychiatry's Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health.                                                                                                                                       (Photo by Eve Vagg)






HIV Center welcomes three new postdoctoral Fellows




Three new postdoctoral Fellows have joined the HIV Center this academic year. We wish them much success at the HIV Center and beyond as they join five continuing Fellows.

Anisha Gandhi, Ph.D., M.P.H.
received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.P.H. in Maternal and Child Health from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on how structural forces and social environments shape sexual behavior, HIV/STI vulnerability, and key outcomes on the continuum of HIV care. She is particularly interested in exploring these relationships in marginalized and minority populations, both globally and domestically. Her work at the HIV Center includes investigating the roles of mobility and socioeconomic status on linkage to and engagement in HIV care. (Pictured above fourth from left.)

Margo Bennett Mullinax, Ph.D., M.P.H. received her Ph.D. in Health Behavior from the School of Public Health at Indiana University and her master of public health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr. Mullinax’s research pushes the bounds of existing public health models by evaluating the very framing of public health research and policy agendas related to sexual and reproductive health in domestic and global contexts. Margo is interested in innovative approaches that translate public health policies and programs into meaningful change in peoples’ lives, especially with regards to HIV. Her previous research has used a feminist and critical inquiry framework to examine the interpersonal and contextual dynamics of contraceptive and condom use, including a focus on interpersonal communication about sexual health topics.   (Picured above third from right.)


Jack Ume Tocco, Ph.D., M.P.H. received his doctorate in anthropology and his master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Dr. Tocco investigates the acculturation of biomedical technologies in diverse contexts. His scholarship examines how sexuality, gender, morality and political economy relate to health and access to care, particularly for socially disadvantaged groups. He conducted extensive ethnographic research on Islamic responses to HIV in Northern Nigeria, emphasizing the migration from prophetic to antiretroviral therapy and how local ideals of masculinity affect HIV prevention, transmission and treatment. Dr. Tocco is also currently involved in a multi-phase HIV prevention study with male and female sex workers and their clients in Mombasa, Kenya. (Pictured above fourth from right.)                                                                               (Photo by Eve Vagg)









Do you think that social science research is an important part of the solution to the HIV/AIDS epidemic? Do you have a doctoral degree (Ph.D., M.D., etc.), or are you about to complete one? Do you want to receive further training to become an independent HIV/AIDS researcher?  If so (or if you know anyone to whom this might apply), you might be interested in our NIMH-funded postdoctoral training program, focusing on HIV, gender, and human sexuality at the HIV Center.


Trainees receive up to three years of support for stipends, health insurance, travel for conferences, and research. Further information and an application form can be found by clicking here.


Positions for our training program will be available as of July 2015. Make sure that we receive your application form not later than November 1, 2014, if you want to be considered for this position.


Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Persons from underrepresented groups (including those with disabilities and disadvantaged background) are strongly encouraged to apply.






Remembering Dr. Mervyn Susser (1921-2014)


With great sadness, all of us at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies note the death of Dr. Mervyn Susser on August 14, 2014.


Mervyn Susser was a Professor of Epidemiology in the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. For many years he was the Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health and was the Founding Director of the Sergievsky Center at Columbia. Mervyn Susser was an extraordinary activist for human rights and a world-renowned scholar, and his life and work had a major impact in the fields of epidemiology and public health. He will be missed by friends and colleagues across the globe.


Our thoughts are particularly with Dr. Zena Stein, his wife and our beloved colleague who has played a major role in our work since 1987 as the founding Co-Director of the HIV Center and an intellectual partner in research and activism into the present. (The couple are pictured above on the occasion of Dr. Stein's retirement.) All of us extend our heartfelt condolences to the entire Susser family.


For more about the life and legacy of Dr. Mervyn Susser, please visit his obituary in the New York Times.





Division welcomes Laura Erickson-Schroth, M.D. as first LGBT Health Fellow



Laura Erickson-Schroth, M.D., M.A. has joined the Division as the first LGBT Health Fellow with the LGBT Health Initiative. She is also a Public Psychiatry Fellow at Columbia University Medical Center.


Dr. Erickson-Schroth is the editor of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, a resource guide written by and for transgender people on topics including history, politics, health care, law, arts and culture, relationships, and sexuality. She is particularly interested in mental health and resilience in LGBT populations, especially those with limited resources. She is also focused on education and wide dissemination of knowledge about LGBT health, both within LGBT communities and amongst health care providers.



Dr. Erickson-Schroth received her M.D. from Dartmouth Medical School and her M.A. in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She completed a psychiatric residency at New York University.





Dr. Robert Klitzman named 2014 Hastings Fellow


Robert Klitzman, MD, is one of nine newly appointed Fellows at The Hastings Center, a non-partisan research institution devoted to bioethics. The Hastings Center chooses fellows whose "distinguished contributions in their fields have been influential in bioethics."


Dr. Klitzman is a Professor of Psychiatry in the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health and an investigator with the HIV Center. He is also director of the Master’s Program in Bioethics at the Columbia School of Continuing Education and author, most recently, of the book Am I My Genes?: Confronting Fate and Family Secrets in the Age of Genetic Testing.


According to the Hastings Center, “Fellows are an elected group of individuals of outstanding accomplishment, whose work has informed scholarship and/or public understanding of complex ethical issues in health, health care, life sciences research and the environment.”







HIV Center research is presented at the 2014 International AIDS Conference





The work of HIV Center investigators is represented in nearly two dozen presentations at the 20th International AIDS Conference being held in Melbourne, Australia, from July 20-25. For a full listing, click here.


As the conference was beginning, we learned that among those who died in the disaster of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 were several delegates on their way to the conference. We extend our sincere condolences to all the family, friends, and colleagues of the deceased, who included some cherished colleagues from institutions outside the United States.






Timothy Frasca named recipient of Annual Manuscript Award for Junior Investigators



Research Project Director Timothy Frasca, M.P.H. was named the recipient of the 2014 Manuscript Award, which is presented each year by the HIV Center's Development Core to a junior investigator for an outstanding paper. Frasca was the lead author of the winning article, entitled “Attitude and Behavior Changes Among Gay and Bisexual Men After Use of Rapid Home HIV Tests to Screen Sexual Partners.” The article was published in 2013 in the journal AIDS Behavior (Vol. 18 No. 5, pages 950-957). Co-authors on the article were Ivan Balan, Mobolaji Ibitoye, Juan Valladares, Curtis Dolezal, & Alex Carballo-Dieguez.



The reviewers cited the direct public health relevance of this paper in reporting on a harm reduction strategy that anticipates technological developments likely to make home testing more convenient and economical. The paper not only pushes the envelope of what we know in this field, but addresses the issue of effectiveness in real-world settings. The qualitative approach that was used was detailed and thorough and the reported findings elegantly articulated. The paper was further judged to be innovative in that it focused on resilience -- rather than a deficit approach -- to HIV harm reduction in high-risk populations.



Above: Tim Frasca (left) receiving award from Division Director Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt, June 26, 2104 (Photo by Omar Martinez)





Congratulations to the 2014 graduates of the HIV Center Fellowship Program




Farnaz Kaighobadi, Ph.D. and Zoe Edelstein, Ph.D. are this year's graduates of the HIV Center's Postdoctoral Fellowship program.



Dr. Kaighobadi is now a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at Bard College.  Dr. Edelsteinis now Director of Research in the HIV Prevention Program, Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.


Pictured from left to right are Psychiatry Department Chair Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman; Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health Director Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt; Drs. Kaighobadi and Edelstein; and Training Program Director Dr. Theo Sandfort. (Photo: Eve Vagg)





Dr. Ronald Bayer elected to lead World Health Organization bioethics network



Dr. Ronald Bayer, a long-time HIV Center investigator and professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, was elected to a two-year term (2014 to 2016) to chair the World Health Organization’s Network of Bioethics Collaborating Centers, of which the Mailman School’s Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health is a member. Most recently, the Network worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the ethical challenges of HIV treatment prevention, tuberculosis control, and vaccination. Dr. Bayer is currently also the Co-Director of the HIV Center's Public Health Practice and Policy Core.







Dr. Walter Bockting's work on transgender health is highlighted by Columbia School of Nursing



A feature article on the work of LGBT Health Initiative Co-Director Dr. Walter Bockting was highlighted in The Academic Nurse magazine published by the Columbia University School of Nursing.


The article begins: "In the early 1990s, near the beginning of his career as a clinical psychologist specializing in LGBT health and sexual identity development, Walter Bockting, Ph.D., spotted a trend that would ignite the research that has made him one of the world's leading experts on transgender health."


To read the full article, click here





Division Investigators contribute to new book HIV/AIDS and Psychiatry


HIV Center investigators Drs. Robert Remien, Francine Cournos, Milton Wainberg, Karen McKinnon, and Reuben Robbins are contributors to the important new resource book "HIV/AIDS and Psychiatry" published in conjunction with the World Psychiatric Association. The investigators co-authored chapters on "Epidemiology of Psychopathology in HIV," "Intervention in HIV and Psychiatry: Behavioral and Psychotherapeutic Approaches," and "Special Populations and Public Health Aspects." Two of the books editors, Drs. John Joska and Dan Stein of the University of Cape Town are longstanding close collaborators with the HIV Center; the volume was also co-edited with Dr. Igor Grant of the University of California at San Diego.


This book provides clinicians with a comprehensive evidenced-based and practical approach to the management of patients with HIV infection and co-morbid mental disorders. It provides up-to-date and clear overviews of current clinical issues, as well as the relevant basic science. Information and data from studies of different HIV groups (eg men who have sex with men) make the text relevant to a broad spectrum of clinicians, including those working with low socioeconomic status groups in high income countries and those working in the developing world.


The book uses the popular format of the World Psychiatric Association’s Evidence and Experience series. Review chapters summarize the evidence on the epidemiology, pathogenesis and clinical aspects of mental disorders in HIV, and interventions (both psychotherapy and psychopharmacology including drug-drug interactions). These are complemented by commentaries addressing particular facets of each topic and providing insight gained from clinical experience.


Psychiatrists, psychologists and all mental health staff working with HIV-infected patients will find this book of great benefit. For more information, visit:




“A Vision for LGBT Health” event highlights LGBT Health Initiative


In an important affirmation of the importance of the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people at CUMC and beyond, the Office of the Dean of the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) at Columbia University sponsored a major presentation and panel discussion on “A Vision for LGBT Health.” The event was held April 3, 2014 and opened with remarks by P&S Dean Dr. Lee Goldman and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. Anne Taylor.

“We are at a unique moment in history with regard to LGBT rights and health,” stated keynote speaker Dr. Walter Bockting, Co-Director of the LGBT Health Initiative at CUMC, noting rapid advances in social attitudes, positive legal decisions concerning same-sex marriage equality, and constructive actions taken by government agencies, academic institutions, and health-care providers. “At the same time, serious health disparities and inequities persist in terms of the quality of and access to the health care system for LGBT people. “

Dr. Bockting laid out the steps taken by the LGBT Health Initiative since its founding in 2012 within the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health at Columbia Psychiatry, in association with the Columbia University School of Nursing. Among these has been a systematic needs assessment among providers in Psychiatry and elsewhere at CUMC, development of LGBT-focused educational programs for residents and students, the funding of new research studies on LGBT families and on transgender identity development, and the expansion of clinical care for patients who are LGBT.

Echoing these sentiments was Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt, the Initiative’s Director and the Director of the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health. In her role as chair of the panel, Dr. Ehrhardt noted the sharp contrast between the launch of the LGBT Health Initiative and that of the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, which she founded in 1987 and continues at NYSPI to the current day. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive reception we have received with regard to LGBT health. In 1987, we had to convince people about the significance of the AIDS epidemic. Today, our colleagues understand the need to address LGBT health and have invited us to join them as partners in their work.”

Several of these partners were members of the panel discussion that followed, sharing perspectives from their own disciplinary and institutional perspectives. Columbia University School of Nursing Dean Dr. Bobbie Berkowitz provided insights from her experience on an Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel on LGBT health, on which Dr. Bockting also served. Dr. Jonathan Amiel, Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs at P&S, surveyed educational and clinical efforts at CUMC, noting both recent progress and considerable persisting needs. Dr. Jack Pula, a Columbia-affiliated psychiatrist, spoke of the unique health challenges facing transgender people, himself included. Offering an outside perspective, Dr. Ken Mayer presented a state-of-the-art overview of the LGBT Health field from his vantage as Director of the Harvard-affiliated Fenway Health, a provider to the LGBT community in Boston.



Dr. Heino Meyer-Bahlburg receives WPATH "Harry Benjamin" award


Heino Meyer-Bahlburg, Dr. rer. nat. received The World Professional Association for Transgender Health's (WPATH) highest honor, the "Harry Benjamin Lifetime Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award." The award was made at the 23rd WPATH Symposium in Bangkok, Thailand in February "in recognition of his seminal work on the developmental psychobiology of gender, leading to better treatment for children with Disorders of Sex Development / intersex conditions and to a better conceptualization and understanding of their psychosexual development."


Dr. Meyer-Bahlburg is a clinical psychologist with specialization in clinical and research sexology (development of gender and its variants, and of sexual behavior; psychosexual assessment).He is a Professor of Clinical Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry of Columbia University and since 1977 has been a Research Scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and a member of the HIV Center's leadership since 1987. At NYSPI . Dr. Meyer-Bahlburg is also the Director of the (research and clinical) Program of Developmental Psychoendocrinology which centers on psychosexual differentiation, including transgenderism and intersexuality; a member of the Organizing Committee of the Initiative for LGBT Health; and a long-term member of the Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute’s Institutional Review Board.




Columbia Psychiatry Ranked Highest in Nation for NIH funding

In 2013 Columbia Psychiatry was once again again ranked #1 in the nation in NIH funding, with $69.8 million from combined grants received by our faculty through the Research Foundation of Mental Hygiene and Columbia University Department of Psychiatry. "This clearly reflects our faculty’s extraordinary ability and productivity, and the progress that we continue to make despite a persistently challenging financial environment," noted Department Chair Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D. This is the seventh year in a row that Columbia Psychiatry (home of the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health) has ranked first, an achievement made even more notable by the $12.6 million gap between first and second rank. In second place is Yale University with $57.2 million, third place is the University of Pittsburgh with $51.6 million, and UC San Diego remains in fourth place with $44.3 million.



HIV Center to Co-Sponsor "Building the Fourth Wave of HIV/AIDS Activism: An Activist-Scholar Panel"


HIV/AIDS activism has been back in the news, and activists have been back in the streets. After three great waves of HIV/AIDS activism, this may be the start of a fourth wave. What can be done to build a fourth wave? What might the experience of the first three waves suggest about its direction and impact?

This event is co-sponsored by the HIV Center and the Baruch College Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management. It is being held in association with media sponsor The Stanford Social Innovation Review and coincides with the launch of the new three-volume bookset Global HIV/AIDS Politics, Policy, and Activism: Persistent Challenges and Emerging Issues (Raymond A. Smith, Editor; Praeger, 2013).


Monday, February 3, 2014, 4-6pm
Baruch College, 135 East 22nd Street, Room 301, New York, NY


Michael Seltzer, Baruch College, CUNY

Amanda Lugg, African Services Committee
Jeff Maskovsky, Graduate Center, CUNY
Mathew Rodriguez, & ACT UP/NY
Eric Sawyer, UNAIDS
Raymond Smith, Columbia University


Admission is free. Space is limited – RSVP Required
RSVP: or 646-660-6806


To access the flyer for this event, click here.




HIV Center mourns the passing -- and celebrates the life -- of Nelson Mandela


 HIV Center Director Dr. Robert H. Remien and Co-Directors Drs. Claude Ann Mellins and Alex Carballo-Dguez issued a statement on the passing of Nelson Mandela:


"The HIV Center mourns the passing – and celebrates the life and accomplishments – of the great South African and world leader Nelson Mandela. We greatly admire his tenacity and dedication to justice and human rights, his courage, patience and resilience in the face of adversity, hostility and aggression, his demonstration of forgiveness, redemption and humility, and his pursuit of peace and unity. His whole life was a lesson and remains an inspiration to us all.


"Among several causes in his fight for human rights and justice, Nelson Mandela demonstrated a strong commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa and around the world. For over 25 years, it has been the great privilege of the HIV Center to work in South Africa and collaborate with colleagues there in pursuit of our shared goals of HIV prevention, treatment access, stigma reduction, and the promotion of the health and human rights of all. Since our first HIV research program in South Africa began in 1992, we have watched with admiration as South Africa reinvented itself under President Mandela."


To read the full statement, please click here.




Screening and panel discussion of How to Survive a Plague documentary



To mark World AIDS Day 2013, the HIV Center hosted a screening of the highly acclaimed and Academy Award-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague. The film highlights the critical role of ACT UP, TAG, and other AIDS activists in the search for treatments for HIV in the 1980s and 1990s.


The screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by HIV Center Director Dr. Robert Remien (at right in photo) and including the film’s director and producer David France (holding microphone). The panel also included three key activists featured in the film (from left to right): Jim Eigo, Peter Staley, and Ann Northrop. The event was co-sponsored by the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at NYU.





Dr. Alex Carballo-Diéguez is cited in New York Times article on HIV and gay men


 The article, "Rise in Unprotected Sex by Gay Men Spurs H.I.V. Fears" states in part:


"Federal health officials are reporting a sharp increase in unprotected sex among gay American men, a development that makes it harder to fight the AIDS epidemic...


Two leading independent AIDS researchers agreed only partly with those explanations. “Young guys are less worried,” said Alex Carballo-Diéguez, a researcher at the H.I.V. Center of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University who has studied gay men’s behavior since the 1980s. “H.I.V. has become a chronic disease, and everyone knows some behaviors are bad for you, like smoking and trans fats. But in the moment of excitement, they’re going to do what they enjoy.”


To read the full article, click here.




Dr. Robert Klitzman writes about the the promise and peril of genetic testing



In an article for Bloomberg News, Dr. Klitzman wrote in part: "Over the past decade, we have heard about the 'fat gene,' the 'diabetes gene,' the 'alcoholism gene,' the 'intelligence gene,' even the 'God gene.' In the end, none of these so-called discoveries proved correct. Genetics is more complex than scientists imagined. We have discovered highly predictive genes for about 2,000 rare ailments, such as Huntington’s disease, but not for most common diseases such as cancer and diabetes. This hasn’t prevented companies such as 23andMe Inc. from selling direct-to-consumer genetic testing, with claims that it offers beneficial health information." To read the full article,"The Failed Promise of 23andMe," click here.


Dr. Klitzman was also interviewed by the Wall Street Journal on the topic of "What to Consider Before Undergoing a DNA Test." To view the interview, click here.




Dr. Walter Bockting delivers plenary address at LGBTQ Health and Wellness conference


The second annual Chicago LGBTQ Health and Wellness conference convened on November 20, 2013. Co-organized by the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program at Northwestern University and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Institute of Center on Halsted, the event took place at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, drawing approximately 180 conference participants from across the US and abroad.


In his plenary address, Dr. Walter Bockting, Co-Director of the LGBT Health Initiative presented his work on transgender identity, sexuality, and health. He underscored that gender is not binary and stated that data suggest that one of every 200 people is transgender. Dr. Bockting emphasized several key points: “Transgender is an identity, not a disorder,” there is no one “way” to be transgender, and “transition is first and foremost a psychosocial process.” His work reminded the audience of the importance of Transgender Day of Remembrance that coincided with the conference. 


To read more about the conference, click here.




HIV Center to co-sponsor screening and panel discussion of "How to Survive a Plague"



The HIV Center will host a screening of the highly acclaimed and Academy Award-nominated Featured Documentary:How to Survive a Plague. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with the film’s director and producer David France
and some of the key community leaders featured in the film, including Jim Eigo, Mark Harrington, Ann Northrop, and Peter Staley.


Thursday, December 5, 2013
4:00 - 7:00 PM

NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, NY, NY, 1st Floor Auditorium


The event is being held to mark World AIDS Day 2013, and is co-sponsored by the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at NYU.


For more information and to RSVP:







Dr. Joanne Mantell discusses her work on medical male circumcision



Dr. Mantell and colleagues recently published a paper titled: "Medical male circumcision and HIV risk: perceptions of women in a higher learning institution in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa" in the journal Sexual Health. The study was conducted in partnership with MATCH Research (Maternal, Adolescent, and Child Health) at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.


With support from NIMH and from amFAR, Dr. Mantel is the Principal Investigator of studies on the integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV care and medical male circumcision in South Africa, and a co-investigator on studies of women in antenatal clinics and men in Lesotho and men who have sex with men in South Africa.


To read more about the study and its findings on the science website, click here.






Bookset published on Global HIV/AIDS Politics, Policy, and Activism



The new three-volume bookset Global HIV/AIDS Politics, Policy, and Activism: Persistent Challenges and Emerging Issues was published on October 31. The bookset includes 45 chapters by over 80 contributing authors from 16 countries, including GSH Division-affiliated investigators Drs. Robert Remien, Richard Parker, Zena Stein, Joanne Mantell, and Raymond Smith, who is also editor of the bookset. The idea originated with an HIV Center-sponsored conference in 2009. For more information on the bookset, click here.


Symposium honors HIV Center Investigator Dr. Ronald Bayer's 25 Years at Columbia


Dr. Ronald Bayer's 25 years at Columbia were honored at a symposium on October 25 entitled “Risky Business: Confronting the Moral and Political Foundations of Public Health.” Dr. Bayer has been affiliated with the HIV Center since 1988 and is currently Co-Director of the Public Health Policy and Practice Core. The event brought together health scholars and leaders who have been centrally engaged in the issues that have defined Dr. Bayer's career and will continue to be focal points of controversy and conflict. Thematically, the conference was be organized around three topics: AIDS, which was responsible for bringing Dr. Bayer to Columbia; tobacco control, and the challenge of confronting mass behavior and corporate practice; and the politics of decision making, with a focus on the role of evidence in public policy. It was sponsored by the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health; the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School; and the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.





Dr. Stewart Adelson presents LGBT Health Webinar with Fenway Institute


LGBT Health Initiative investigator Dr. Stewart Adelson recently presented a webinar at the Fenway Institute on "Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents." The webinar can be accessed via the link below (registration required):





LGBT Health Initiative Co-Director Dr. Walter Bockting on "LGBT-IQ"

At an event co-sponsored by the Columbia School of Nursing's Office of Diversity and Cultural Affairs and the CUMC Office of Student Wellness, LGBT Health Initiative Co-Director Dr. Walter Bockting offered a presentation entitled "LGBT-IQ: Getting Smart about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer Identities and Health." The audience at the October 16, 2013 event included over 50 students, faculty, and staff from CUMC and from the Columbia-Morningside campus, many of whom also joined a reception in Bard Hall afterwards.


Dr. Bockting's wide-ranging talk covered the evolution of such terms as "queer," "gay," and "transgender" and their meaning today. He also presented a series of case studies on the often complex intersections among natal sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and also provided guidance about how health care providers can exercise cultural competence in interacting with LGBTQI clients and patients. To learn more about the LGBT Health Initiative, click here(Photo by Rachel Zuckerman)


HIV Center Director Dr. Robert Remien Speaks at
ICAP Forum on New Opportunities and Challenges in HIV Prevention

ICAP at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health convened a group of leading HIV researchers for a special symposium on October 10, 2013 to discuss opportunities and challenges in HIV prevention. The event also launched a supplement of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS), on state-of- the-art HIV prevention. The symposium featured contributing authors including Drs. Wafaa El-Sadr, Myron Cohen, Andrea Howard, and Robert Remien, who all participated in a panel discussion joined by Dr. Elaine Abrams.

Robert Remien, Ph.D. (at center above) presented on the global HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM), the multifactoral nature of MSM HIV vulnerabilities, the diversity of MSM and the role that plays in designing and targeting interventions, and recent findings and new directions for combating the epidemic among the MSM population.
To read more about the symposium, please click here. (Photo courtesy of ICAP)


Opening of VSA Arts Show at NYSPI on October 8

Division Investigator Dr. Robert Klitzman was instrumental in organizing a show of student art at NYSPI sponsored by VSA. This organization on arts and disability was founded more than 35 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increase access to the arts for all.


Dr. Klitzman is pictured above (at right) with Columbia Psychiatry Chair and NYSPI Director Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman and Ambassador Kennedy Smith. All three spoke at an opening of the art show on October 8, with the ambassador presenting certificates to the student artists. The student art will continue to be on display in the atrium of the Kolb Annex until October 31. (Photo by Eve Vagg)

Development Core sponsors poster session held on September 12, 2013

Investigators Drs. Mary McKay (left) and Claude Ann Mellins (right) were among the Division/HIV Center researchers who presented their work, in this case"The VUKA Family Project: A family-based mental health and HIV prevention program for perinatally HIV-infected youth." As with several of the posters, this one was originally presented at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. during July 2012. In total, 27 posters co-authored by Division/HIV Center investigators were on display. The event was sponsored by the HIV Center’s Development Core. For more on the poster session, click here. (Photo by Eve Vagg)

Division publishes LGBT guide to Columbia University


The Division and the LGBT Health Initiative have published a guide to Resources and Programs at Columbia University related to LGBTQ Issues, including:academic centers and resources, student services, selected courses, clubs and organizations, and University non-discrimination policies. For more information, please visit:




The preview issue of the new journal LGBT Health has been published

LGBT Health is new quarterly peer-reviewed journal dedicated to promoting optimal healthcare for millions of sexual and gender minority persons worldwide by focusing specifically on health while maintaining sufficient breadth to encompass the full range of relevant biopsychosocial and health policy issues.

The editorial board includes Division Columbia investigators Theo Sandfort, Walter Bockting, and Milton Wainberg. For more information, please visit:



Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt chairs panel on "The Neuroscience of Gender"


Division Director Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt chaired a panel discussion on “The Neuroscience of Gender” focused on the question of how sex hormones influence male and female behavior. The event was sponsored by the German Center for Research and Innovation with RWTH Aachen University.The German Center provides a platform for German science, research, innovation and research-based companies (


The panelists included leading neuroscience esteemed experts from Germany and the United States discussing the neural and hormonal basis of gender differences in behavior. Pictured above at left is Dr. Ehrhardt and at right is German Center Director Dr. Joann Halpern. The two panelists are at center: Dr. Bruce S. McEwen, who is Alfred E. Mirsky Professor and Head of the Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University in New York and Dr. Ute Habel, who is Professor of Neuropsychological Gender Research with the University Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics at RWTH Aachen University.


For further information, please visit:



The LGBT Health Initiative is profiled in the Columbia media


The launch of the Division's LGBT Health Initiative has been profiled in a variety of Columbia University media outlets, including:

► The summer 2013 issue of The Columbia Record;

► The Columbia University student radio station WQXR;

► The Columbia Psychiatry newsletter InPsych

►The Columbia Spectator student newspaper Op-Ed and News sections.

For further information about the LGBT Health Initiative, please visit:


The HIV Center Receives NIMH Renewal Under New Leadership

In February 2013, the HIV Center was renewed by NIMH with Dr. Robert H. Remien (left) as Director. Dr. Claude Ann Mellins and Dr. Alex Carballo Diéguez (at right) are the new Co-Directors. Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt (second from left), who founded the HIV Center in 1987, continues on as Director and Research Chief of the Division of Gender, Sexuality and Health.

The HIV Center has been renewed by National Institute of Mental Health for the five year period of 2013 to 2018, and will highlight new leadership, new research Cores, and expanded collaboration with other academic institutions such as the Albert Einstein School of Medicine and New York University, and with health departments in New York State and New York City. A major focus will be on developing new approaches to HIV prevention, treatment, and care through the combination of behavioral and biomedical interventions. The HIV Center also aims to apply the principles of implementation science to maximize public health impact.


Based within the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health, the HIV Center brings together nearly 100 investigators who are at the forefront of HIV biobehavioral science. Through the NIMH AIDS Research Center (ARC) mechanism, the HIV Center provides the value-added infrastructure to ensure methodological and theoretical rigor, identify and respond to new trends in the epidemic, support critical partnerships across research and practice sectors, and train new behavioral scientists. The Center is unique among the NIMH ARCs in being based in New York City – home to over one-third of people living with HIV/AIDS in the US, the highest number of new infections of any US city, and large ethnic/racial minority populations coping with extreme economic and health disparities.


For more on the HIV Center, please visit:


Benefit of Broadway musical "Kinky Boots" held for LGBT Health Initiative

Attendees at the "Kinky Boots" event included (from left to right) Hal Luftig, Stewart Adelson, Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Anke A. Ehrhardt, Bobbie Berkowitz, Jerry Mitchell, Cyndi Lauper, Walter O. Bockting


In celebration of the LGBT Health Initiative, the Broadway musical "Kinky Boots" hosted a special one-night-only event at the show on March 20th. The event featured a pre-show cocktail reception with composer/lyricist Cyndi Lauper, director Jerry Mitchell, and producers Hal Luftig and Daryl Roth, and a post-show talkback with book writer and gay rights icon Harvey Fierstein. The evening was co-sponsored by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (executive director: Tom Viola), with all proceeds directly benefitting the LGBT Health Initiative.

In a joint statement, Fierstein and Lauper stated, “We have both been deeply involved in advancing equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community for decades, so we know good people when we see them. We’re honored to be joining the renowned researchers and clinicians of Columbia University Medical Center to raise awareness for their groundbreaking Initiative. Kinky Boots is very much about the power of self-acceptance and emotional health. We believe that this new program can strengthen not only the LGBT community, but all of New York.” Moving forward, the LGBT Health Initiative will be collaborating with Ms. Lauper’s True Colors


To view more photo from the event, visit:




Launch of the "Initiative for LGBT Health" and appointment of
Dr. Walter Bockting

The Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health has launched its first major new program -- the Initiative for LGBT Health, that will comprise research, clinical care, education, and policy as related to the physical and mental health needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population. To read more about the Initiative, please click here.


In conjunction with the launch, the Division also announced the appointment of Dr. Walter Bockting, one of the world’s leading experts on gender identity development and transgender health. He has been nominated professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Physicians and Surgeons and at Columbia University School of Nursing. Dr,.Bockting will also serve as Co-director of the newly launched Initiative for LGBT Health, based in the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health in the Department of Psychiatry, in close collaboration with the Columbia University School of Nursing. To read more about the appointment, please click here.



Expansion to become the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health


The Division of HIV (home of the HIV Center) was expanded in the summer of 2012 to become the Division of Gender, Sexuality and Health to reflect the full scope of our research studies, educational initiatives, and expertise of our investigators. The reframed Division continues to include the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, the New York/New Jersey AIDS Education and Training Center (NY/NJ AETC), a postdoctoral program in human sexuality and HIV behavioral research, approximately 40 individual studies, and over 100 affiliated faculty. The Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health also serves as a coordinating mechanism for all Columbia 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. In summer 2012, the Division launched its first major new project, the Initiative for LGBT Health, comprising components in research, clinical care, education, and public policy. The Division continues to be led by Anke A. Ehrhardt, Ph.D., who co-founded the HIV Center in 1987 and has been its Director since that time.  To read more about the Division, click here.


Home-based Rapid HIV Testing Study led by Dr. Alex Carballo-Diéguez

Alex Carballo-Diéguez, Ph.D., is currently leading a study at the HIV Center on "Rapid HIV Home Test and Decision-Making among HIV-Negative Men." This important prevention issue has become even more topical with the recent approval from the FDA for over-the-counter distribution.

To access our Home-based Rapid HIV Testing information and resource page, click here. This page includes two video Q&A segments with Dr. Carballo-Diéguez, links to media coverage of the study (including an article in the New York Times), and information about the study and about the issue of home-based rapid HIV testing.


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