Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office (SGMRO) Staff

Karen Parker, Ph.D., M.S.W.
Director

Pronouns: She/Her
Phone: 301-451-2055

Karen L. Parker currently serves as Director of the Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office (SGMRO) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Parker was instrumental in the formation of the office in fall of 2015 and was appointed Director in June 2016. In her role as Director, Dr. Parker is co-chair of the trans-NIH Sexual and Gender Minority Research Coordinating Committee (RCC), a committee on which she has served since its inception in 2011, and co-chair of the NIH SGM Research Working Group of the Council of Councils. Dr. Parker is also a member of the NIH Anti-Harassment Steering Committee and serves as the co-chair of the NIH Office of the Director Anti-Harassment Champions Working Group. Additionally, she sits as an ad-hoc member on the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on Diversity.

Dr. Parker is involved in several SGM-related initiatives beyond NIH. She serves as co-chair of the Measuring Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Research Group, an entity of the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology, as well as co-chair for the Department of Health and Human Services LGBT Coordinating Committee.

Previously, Dr. Parker worked at the National Cancer Institute for 14 years, where she served as Acting Branch Chief in the NCI Office of Science Planning and Assessment and as Special Assistant to the President’s Cancer Panel. She began her career at NIH in 2001 as a Presidential Management Fellow. Dr. Parker received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Indiana University and her Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan, where she studied community organization, social policy, and evaluation. She subsequently completed her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work. 

 

Irene Avila, Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Pronouns: She/Her/Ella

Phone: 301-594-9701

Irene Avila, Ph.D., currently serves as the Assistant Director for the SGMRO, having joined the office in April. Irene’s role in SGMRO involves the management of operational activities, strategic planning, and the executive secretary for the Council of Councils Sexual and Gender Minority Research Working Group. Irene previously served as the Special Assistant to Dr. Hannah Valentine, the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity, and the Executive Secretary to the NIH Director’s Advisory Committee’s Working Group on Diversity. Dr. Avila’s work has focused on postdoc and early-career investigator programming that sought to enhance diversity inclusion and retention in the biomedical research workforce. She received her Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from Arizona State University. Her dissertation was conducted at NINDS through the Graduate Partnership Program and she completed a postdoc at NIA.

 
Anthony Anderson
Operations Coordinator
Pronouns: He/Him
Phone: 301-402-9616


Anthony Anderson is the Operations Coordinator for SGMRO.  Anthony is a native Washingtonian and began his time with NIH in 2013 at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as an Administrative Technician. He later worked for the Division of Management Support (DMS) as a Junior Program Analyst and moved to his new role as Operations Coordinator with SGMRO in August. On a personal note, Anthony is an avid sci-fi movie watcher and has seen the movie Avengers: Endgame roughly 25 times (so far). His greatest joy is being a father; Anthony’s son Rahmaan is an honor roll student and is a sophomore in high school.
 

Christopher Barnhart, Ph.D.
Health Science Policy Analyst
Pronouns: He/Him
Phone: 301-594-8983


Christopher Barnhart is currently a Health Science Policy Analyst in the SGMRO where he supports and promotes the health of sexual and gender minority communities through analysis and administration of grants, strategic planning, workshop development, outreach coordination, and representation on relevant trans-NIH and -HHS committees and working groups. Prior to coming to the SGMRO, Christopher was an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow on detail to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, where he analyzed and reported on NICHD activities in supporting and protecting pediatric and maternal health and in addressing relevant health disparities to a diverse array of internal and external stakeholders. He also organized and conducted outreach efforts to understand and address issues of equity in health, education, and participation in STEM, as well as to encourage and foster the next generation of scientists. Christopher received his doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology from UC Davis in 2015, and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, focusing at both institutions on how environmental toxicants and individual genetic factors may interact to affect the developing nervous system.

 

Ryan Timothy Mahon, M.S.W.
Program Analyst
Pronouns: They/Them
Phone: 301-594-0245

Ryan has served, since the inception of the office, as the program analyst for the Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office (SGMRO) in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, located in the NIH Office of the Director. In this capacity, Ryan supports all aspects of the SGMRO, including the implementation of the trans-NIH SGM Research Strategic Plan, collaborations with the Tribal Health Research Office and other ICOs, data collection and analysis, and the measurement of progress towards our strategic goals.

Before joining NIH, Ryan worked in consulting at private firms specializing in program evaluation in human services, and as a clinician. Ryan has worked in a wide range of clinical and social science research settings, with supranational, national, state, provincial, and local governments, always contributing to ground-breaking research, and organizational evolution in vulnerable populations, including children, the poor, sexual and gender minorities, the imprisoned, and Native Americans.

Ryan began his college education at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, PA. He then completed a B.A. in psychology with a minor in history, and went on to earn a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania. Ryan identifies as male and gay and prefers the gender-neutral pronouns 'they' and 'them.' They live in Maryland with their schnoodle, Oliver, and both adore peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

 

Sara Omar, Ph.D.
Health Science Policy Analyst

Pronouns: She/Her

Dr. Sara Omar recently joined SGMRO as a Health Science Policy Analyst. She is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University. Dr. Omar received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and recently completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Middle East Studies at the MacMillan Center at Yale University. Her current book projects focus on the genealogy of same-sex sexual practices in the formation of Muslim discourses. Her work underscores insights that can be gained from studying same-sex sexual practices as a means of understanding the legal, ethical, and social genealogies that have authorized various practices and beliefs as authentically Islamic while also disqualifying and silencing others. She received a Fulbright Fellowship in Syria, where she conducted fieldwork on female religious authority. Her research and teaching interests include Islamic intellectual history, gender and sexuality, religious authority, and violence.

 

Shyam Patel
Communications Specialist
Pronouns: He/His
Phone: 301-827-0388


Shyam Patel serves as the Communications Expert for the Sexual and Gender Minority Research Office at the National Institutes of Health. Previously, Shyam served as the Senior Communications and Education Associate at GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, a national organization committed to ensuring health equity for SGM individuals. His work primarily involved managing GLMA's education initiatives promoting LGBTQ health research, as well as directing organizational advocacy efforts that sought to advance equitable health policy. During his time at GLMA, he served as a board member on the PRIDEnet Participant Advisory Board, assisting with the development of community engagement initiatives, plans, and activities to best engage SGM individuals in health research for both the PRIDE Study and the NIH All of Us Research Program. Shyam received a dual Bachelor of Science in Pediatric Healthcare & Clinical Psychology from UMBC. While at UMBC, he was involved in clinical research at various institutions including UMBC, UMSOM, UPenn, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

 


Office Contact Information:
Office Email: SGMRO@nih.gov
Office Fax: 301-480-4632

This page last reviewed on October 14, 2020