Featured Investigator: Asa Radix

Asa Radix Headshot

June 2023: Asa E. Radix, MD, PhD, MPH, FIDSA
Senior Director of Research and Education, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
Clinical Professor of Medicine, NYU Grossman School of Medicine
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University

Dr. Asa Radix is the Senior Director of Research and Education at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York and a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Dr. Radix is board-certified in internal medicine and infectious disease, holds a PhD in epidemiology from Columbia University, and has over two decades of clinical experience working with transgender and gender diverse individuals. They have published over 130 peer-reviewed articles and have contributed to national and international guidelines in transgender health care, including as co-chair of the World Professional Association of Transgender (WPATH) Standards of Care. Dr. Radix’s research predominately focuses on HIV prevention, and healthcare access and outcomes for trans and gender diverse people, as well as identifying health disparities and institutional practices that create inequities for LGBTQ+ communities. They serve on several committees, including the DHHS Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents. In 2022, Dr. Radix was awarded The WPATH Gold Medal for their significant contributions to global trans health. They are an associate editor of the journals Transgender Health and the International Journal of Transgender Health. 

Q: What are your current research interests?
A: My research addresses existing health disparities and institutional practices that create inequities for LGBTQ+ communities. Most of my current projects are related to HIV prevention and health outcomes for transgender and gender diverse people, as well as developing evidence-based curricula to improve the care environment and clinical outcomes for LGBTQ+ patients. I have been fortunate to collaborate with many of the researchers already profiled by the SGMRO, including Dr. Duncan on the TURNNT (Trying to Understand Relationships, Networks and Neighborhoods among Transgender women of color) study, Dr. Poteat on LITE Plus (examining the relationship between intersectional stigma, stress, and HIV comorbidities among Black and Latina transgender women living with HIV), and Dr. Garofalo on numerous projects, most recently with adapting the MyPEEPs intervention for young transgender men. 

Q: Tell us about your career path – how did you end up where you are now?
A: I grew up on Grenada, a small island in the Caribbean, where I attended medical school, later completing my residency and fellowship in internal medicine and infectious disease at the University of Connecticut. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study at both the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Cambridge University, where I became interested in health promotion and disease prevention. I returned home to take on the directorship of an insular health department in the Dutch Caribbean, serving in many diverse roles, including clinical lead for the WHO Expanded Program on Immunization, and contributing to communicable disease guidelines. In 2006, I moved to New York City to begin a new role as the associate medical director of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, a center that predominately cares for the LGBTQ+ communities and people living with HIV. I realized that more research needed to be done in the area of LGBTQ health, especially research initiated by community-based researchers that centers community needs and research priorities. I decided to study for a Ph.D. in epidemiology at Columbia University, which I completed in 2020. I’m now the director of research and education at Callen-Lorde and started a stand-alone research department that has a robust research portfolio as well as providing evaluation support to other departments in the health center. I am also still involved in teaching, both at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and at Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, as adjunct faculty. 

Q: What organizational challenges have you faced?
A: Building a research department in a busy federally qualified health center has been challenging, mainly due to competing priorities, specifically the need to allocate most resources to clinical care. Luckily, the health center’s board of directors understands the importance of research to guide clinical practice and they provide substantive support both in terms of time and funding to do this work. 

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: Conducting community-engaged research means that you need to build true sustainable partnerships with community organizations from the very start. You can use their knowledge and expertise to help identify community priorities for research as well as ensure that you implement research that is appropriate and affirming. It’s also very important that their work and contributions are adequately compensated, so be fair and transparent with your budget. 

Q: Do you have any specific advice for working with and involving SGM populations in research?
A: Be aware of your positionality, especially if you are not a member of the SGM community. Having adequate and diverse representation on the research team will be very important to the success of your project, and this may take time to achieve, especially if you are new to working in this area. Also, take care not to underestimate the emotional impact of conducting SGM research on your team, such as exposure to participants’ trauma. Ensuring there is space set aside to debrief will help with team morale and staff retention. 

Q: Who inspires you?
A: I have been incredibly lucky to work with an amazing array of collaborators who have been willing to share their expertise, mentor, and support. I’ve been inspired by so many, including those who are no longer with us. I’d like to specifically name Dr. Judy Bradford, a pioneer in the field of LGBT research, who assisted me with developing one of my first research projects that formed the basis of my Ph.D. dissertation. 

Q: Any final words of wisdom?
A: Doing research within LGBTQ+ communities, especially when you are part of the community, can bring additional challenges and responsibilities. You are expected to wear multiple hats (investigator, advocate, community leader, among others) and if you do not take care of yourself, you may find that you are quickly overwhelmed and in danger of burn-out. Ensure that you build a strong support network, including friends and other SGM researchers, and learn to say no to opportunities that do not bring you joy.

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