Featured Investigator: Allen Mallory

Allen Mallory HeadshotFebruary 2021: Allen Mallory, PhD
Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar
The Ohio State University

Dr. Allen Mallory is a Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar at The Ohio State University in the Department of Human Sciences. Allen received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in Human Development and Family Sciences where he was also a trainee at the University of Texas Population Research Center. Allen’s research takes an intersectional approach in understanding the health and well-being of sexual and gender minorities. Specifically, he studies how health disparities vary among and between sexual and gender minorities across multiple marginalized identities and how the processes tied to multiple identities, such as discrimination, intersect to affect health. Dr. Mallory was funded by an F31 (F31MH115608) to investigate how race, gender, and sexual identity discrimination were independent and overlapping in their prospective associations with mental health.

Q: What are your current research interests?
A: My research centers on an intersectional perspective for understanding risk and protective factors for the health and well-being of SGM youth and adults, as well as variability in health disparities among SGM populations. I developed this area of research during my Ph.D. where I was funded by an F31 (F31MH115608) to investigate how race, gender, and sexual identity discrimination were independent and overlapping in their prospective associations with mental health. In my postdoctoral position at Ohio State, I am continuing this line of research, but am also extending it in several ways. My post-doctoral mentor, Natasha Slesnick, has been funded by NIDA to conduct RCTs to reduce substance use among young people experiencing homelessness for over 20 years. I am capitalizing on her extensive data collection, where across several of the studies youth reported their sexual orientation and gender identity, to integrate several datasets to (1) identify the differences in pathways to and experiences during homelessness as well as differences across various health outcomes between SGM youth and heterosexual youth experiencing homelessness, and (2) understanding variability in treatment outcomes for substance abuse between SGM and cisgender-heterosexual youth. My experiences in my postdoctoral position have gotten me more interested in substance use prevention and intervention more broadly to understand how it can better serve SGM populations.

Q: Tell us about your career path – how did you end up where you are now?
A: I did not start out interested in SGM research, but I was always interested in sexuality research more broadly. I received my bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Psychology and Cognitive Science. There were few courses related to sexuality available at the time, so I sought out related opportunities, for example volunteering as an advocate for sexual assault survivors and working at (what was then) the campuses’ women’s center. While at CWRU, I also worked in a couple of research labs, including one focused on family interactions as a protective factor for adolescents’ mental health—this research experience combined with my interest in sexuality led to an interest in how parents talk to their children about sex and sexuality. After a year off, I applied to and was accepted into a master’s program in couple and family therapy (CFT) at Kansas State University (KSU). The masters’ program was very research-intensive, so I had a lot of great research mentors. I mainly worked with Dr. Sandra Stith, who researches intimate partner violence, and who introduced me to doing grant-funded research, which provided a lot of opportunities for me to develop as a researcher. However, it was my clinical experiences that sparked my interest in SGM research. I worked with several SGM people in my clinical work, and as I educated myself more, I realized there was a need for research on SGM populations that better represented their experiences. While I enjoyed the clinical work, I wanted to focus on research in my Ph.D. I ended up choosing to go to the University of Texas at Austin (UT) where I worked with Dr. Stephen Russell. I loved my time at UT. Dr. Russell was a great mentor, and I was able to work with several graduate students and post-doctoral scholars who did SGM research. I was a T32 (T32HD007081) trainee at the UT Pop Center (P2CHD042849) and was awarded an F31(F31MH115608) during my second year—both experiences helped to develop my research around intersectional stigma and health among SGM youth and adults. Towards the end of my Ph.D., I applied to postdoctoral positions at The Ohio State University (OSU), and I was selected to be one of the Presidential Postdoctoral Scholars, a two-year position I started in August 2020, and I was also accepted into the College of Education and Human Ecology’s Dean’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellows program, which allows me to be considered for a targeted hire at OSU at the end of the postdoctoral position.

Q: What organizational challenges have you faced?
A: I have been fortunate to be in supportive programs and have supportive advisors at KSU, UT, and OSU who have encouraged my interest in SGM research. One organizational issue I would like to see change is for it to become more common for graduate coursework to be inclusive of SGM populations and research.

Q: What advice do you have for trainees and researchers who want to work in this area or are interested in applying for NIH funding? 
A: I have a few pieces of advice. First, if you want to do SGM research, do it! There has never been as much support, accessibility, or as many resources available for researchers who want to do SGM research as there are today. Second, find a mentor who does SGM research and can help you get started; SGM researchers are in pretty much every field. Your mentor does not necessarily need to be at your institution either—many professional research organizations have mentoring programs to connect junior and senior researchers. Attend events organized by the NIH SGM research office to find out about ongoing SGM research and the researchers who do it. Third—apply! There are lots of mechanisms you can apply to that can provide mentoring and training in SGM researchers in graduate school (e.g., F31, R36) and after you complete your Ph.D. (e.g., F32, K99R00, K01). Lastly, if you are new to applying for NIH funding, find someone who has recently been successful getting funding and ask if you can read through their application. It's best if the proposal is in your specific area, but regardless, seeing a successful application will cue you in on how to write a strong grant application.

Q: Do you have any specific advice for working with and involving SGM populations in research?
A: With any area of research, it is smart to first learn the language and terminology that are critical to the field, and I think this is especially important for SGM research. Be informed about the current language and terminology for sexual orientation and gender/sex, it changes often, but it has implications for how you design your study, how you measure constructs, and how you frame your research questions. The field of SGM research is growing and changing rapidly, but 99% of the time someone who does not research SGM populations asks me a question, it is usually about how to ask about sexual orientation, gender, and/or sex in their study or how to be inclusive of it in their analyses. It is also important that if you do not share the identities of the SGM populations you are studying, that you partner with other researchers, practitioners, educators, community organizations, community leaders, or community member who do share those identities or have expertise about the population to ensure the research benefits those communities. Relatedly, also consider how other identities (e.g., race, gender, class, religion, age, etc.) within SGM populations are important and relevant for your study.

Q: Who inspires you?
A: The people who built the body of SGM research, which now allow me to be able to do the research that I currently I do. Before there were the kinds of resources and support for SGM research that exist today, critical research about SGM populations was being done that built the body of research that lead to the Institute of Medicine report in 2011, led to homosexuality being removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, helped to advocate for the legalization of same-sex marriage at the state and federal level, helped to advocate for parents in same-sex relationships to adopt children, and informed changes to policies to make schools safer for SGM youth. 

I do a lot of review papers, and I am often fascinated and inspired by some of the older studies about SGM populations that I come across. One of my favorites was the !OutProud! internet survey that was done in 1997, had a sample of over 3000 LGBT youth, and asked about experiences of being LGBT youth. Another favorite was a dissertation from 1983 on sexual function and dysfunction among lesbians. Every study like this played a role in pushing for the legitimization and support for SGM research that we have today.

Q: Any final words of wisdom?
A: Do research that excites you. There are so many areas of SGM research that need more research. There has never been a better time to pursue a career in SGM research – the support and resources to do so exist even if they are not right where you are.




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