Featured Investigator: José A. Bauermeister, MPH, PhD

Jose Bauermeister Headshot

April 2023: José A. Bauermeister, MPH, PhD
Albert M. Greenfield University Professor of Human Relations
Faculty Director, Eidos LGBTQ+ Health Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania
Chair, Department of Family & Community Health, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania

José Bauermeister is the Founding Faculty Director of the Eidos LGBTQ+ Health Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the Albert M. Greenfield University Professor of Human Relations, Chair of the Department of Family and Community Health in the School Nursing and Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine. José is an Aspen Institute’s Health Innovators Fellow, and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. José received his bachelor's degree from the University of Puerto Rico, and his graduate degrees in public health from the University of Michigan. His work focuses on synergizing systems-level interventions, community engagement, digital strategies, and clinical innovations to optimize the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ communities.

Over the past 20 years, Jose has conducted extensive research on the unique health challenges faced by sexual and gender minority communities. Currently, José is lead investigator of several clinical trials, including a digital life skills program for sexual minority adolescent men, and a social support platform focused on addressing stigma for Black and Latinx sexual and gender minority adolescents and young adults. José has led projects funded by the NIH, CDC, Ford Foundation, MAC AIDS Fund, HopeLab, and Herb Ritts Foundation. He has published over 250 peer-reviewed publications. José is a member of the NIH Sexual and Gender Minority Research Working Group and served as a co-author of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine consensus report: Measuring Sex, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation.  He is a member of the editorial boards of the American Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Community Psychology, Archives of Sexual Behavior, AIDS Education & Prevention, Annals of LGBTQ Public and Population Health, and Journal of Youth & Adolescence. 

Q: What are your current research interests?
A: I have focused a large portion of my career thinking about the holistic well-being of sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth, particularly as it relates to HIV/STI prevention and care. My current research is fueled by a desire to embed humanistic frameworks within intervention research, with the goal of creating both behaviorally congruent and developmentally enriching programs for SGM adolescents and young adults. For example, how might digital interventions designed to promote life skills for SGM youth help improve their social, interpersonal, psychological, and physical well-being? What resources and supports need to be available in SGM youth’s communities for them to enact what they are learning online? In order to answer these types of questions, I have become deeply invested in creating opportunities to engage and involve SGM youth throughout the design, implementation, and evaluation of my research.

Q: Tell us about your career path – how did you end up where you are now?
A: I got my bachelor’s in psychology at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez for my undergraduate degree. I had the amazing fortune of participating as a research assistant in an applied community psychology lab led by Dr. Milagritos Gonzalez-Rivera focused on stigma among people living with HIV, and a subsequent summer internship during my junior year with Dr. Alex Carballo-Diéguez at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University. These experiences really opened my eyes to applied health research and to the field of public health in general. After graduating, I decided to pursue a combined MPH/PhD in Health Behavior & Health Education where I focused my research on correlates of risk and resilience among youth, working in Dr. Marc Zimmerman’s research lab at the University of Michigan. After completing my PhD, I went back to the HIV Center to complete a two-year postdoctoral fellowship and subsequently joined the faculty at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. As a faculty member, I felt deeply committed to create a research learning environment similar to what my amazing mentors had given me; so, I decided to start a research lab focused on Sexuality & Health (SexLab for short) which eventually grew into a research center (the Center for Sexuality & Health Disparities) that was co-housed between the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and School of Nursing. After a few years, I was recruited by Dean Antonia Villarruel to join the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing where I have been now for over 7 years. Here, I created a research lab focused on participatory action research and its role in addressing health disparities through technology (PSTAR: the Program on Sexuality, Technology and Action Research). PSTAR has evolved into a university-wide initiative focused on SGM Health (The Eidos LGBTQ+ Health Initiative; www.penneidos.org) where we bring together social enterprise, education, research, and community resources to create real-world applications that can advance LGBTQ+ health equity.  

Q: What organizational challenges have you faced?
A: We have come a long way in advancing the SGM health agenda. When I started my career, we didn’t have access to consensus reports regarding the state of the science or the policy priorities recommendations to advance SGM health. I had to spend a lot of time persuading my peers that a research career focused on SGM health was viable. At the time, some of my senior colleagues expressed concerns that centering my research on SGM health could be risky for my professional advancement as funding opportunities were limited. Thankfully, as SGM health science has become more prominent, efforts to advance SGM health have grown exponentially. Nevertheless, there is still much to do! It remains vital that we continue to invest in inclusive scholarship where diverse perspectives on SGM health can be discussed and analyzed.

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: My best advice for folks interested in applying for NIH funding related to SGM health is to be passionate about your ideas, and allow these ideas to evolve once you receive reviewer feedback. The grant process is highly competitive (we have all gone unscored or unfunded at some time in our careers); however, your chances of success will increase if you are able to ground your ideas in a sound scientific premise, ensure that what you are proposing is feasible within a given funding mechanism, and be responsive to reviewers’ comments. This may take a few submissions and resubmissions, so don’t give up! 

Q: Do you have any specific advice for working with and involving SGM populations in research?
A: I really value opportunities to seek and nurture collaborations from academic, community and healthcare partners committed to SGM populations. Take time to listen to their key priorities and seek ways to ensure that there’s an alignment between your ideas and what they want to achieve when designing a new study or intervention. In particular, participatory action research methods strengthen the science proposed and ensure that the work is co-designed with community members.

Q: Who inspires you?
A: Generally, I’m inspired by people who go out of their way to create opportunities for other people. I’ve deeply benefited from this kindness. I’m so grateful to have crossed paths with scientists who were willing to support my personal and professional growth, and who have created space for me to explore my ideas through research. I really try to pay it forward to the best of my ability, whether it’s having a brief call to explore someone’s ideas or by creating a pipeline for the next generation of scientists through applied research opportunities.

Q: Any final words of wisdom?
A: Be bold and help break new ground! There’s a lot that we yet don’t know about SGM health and how to improve the well-being of our communities.

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