SPHHS LGTBQIA+ Community Featured in Spotlight Series
The series celebrates students, faculty, and alumni who are members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Throughout LGBTQIA+ History Month this October, the SPHHS is highlighting students, faculty, and alumni who are members and allies of the community. Students Abby Grimm, Gerry Puerto, and Saharra Dixon are featured in the series, along with alumnus Kevin Sassaman and faculty members Nicole VanKim and Krystal Kittle. Learn more about them below:
Abby is a senior majoring in public health sciences. She’s currently writing an honors thesis examining the relationship between school experiences and disparities in mental health outcomes of gender minority adolescents compared to their cisgender peers.
It’s important that healthcare professionals understand that someone’s identity is a big part of who they are and we need to be able to provide care based on that.
Geraldine "Gerry" Puerto
Geraldine “Gerry” Puerto is a Community Health Education doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotion and Policy working under the supervision of Dr. Krystal Kittle and Dr. Kathryn Derose. She earned her MPH from the SPHHS in 2022 – 10 years after beginning her journey as an undergraduate psychology major at UMass.
As a Latina, as a queer person, and as an immigrant, I know the importance of understanding how intersectionalities influence folks’ experiences and why it is critical to build solidarity.
Saharra Dixon is a Community Health Education doctoral candidate in the Department of Health Promotion and Policy under the supervision of Dr Aline Gubrium and Dr. Linnea Evans. She is currently in her third year of the program, and a working board member of the Collective for Radical Death Studies.
I am a Black, queer storyteller. My research is arts-based. I am a performing artist, as well as a digital and performance storyteller. I am passionate about anti-racist and anti-colonial public health practices.... My research works to understand how systems and social environments (re)produce health inequities.
Kevin earned his BS in public health sciences and his MPH in epidemiology through the 4+1 program. He is currently living in California researching HIV at the University of California, San Francisco.
I had queer faculty members at UMass. I could see myself in other people in the field that I wanted to pursue and reminded me that I can be a part of the LGBTQ community and pursue my dream career. It’s so important to have those role models and have those people to look up to.
Nicole VanKim is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology. Her work focuses on LGBTQIA+ health, health disparities, and social and behavioral epidemiology.
I have had a lot of students of color and queer students. I always wanted to be able to provide that mentorship because I never had that.
Krystal Kittle joined the Department of Health Promotion and Policy as an assistant professor of community health education this fall. Her research focuses on LGBTQIA+ aging and health.
My PhD is in gerontology. As a student in my doctoral program, I saw a gap in the research. There was some literature on diversity and aging related to race, culture, and ethnicity but nothing on LGBTQIA+ people.