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LGBTQ+ Health Program and ORD collaborate to hold meeting for LGBQ+ Veterans health research

June 28, 2024

By Sarah Kallassy
VA Research Communications

This inaugural meeting represents more than just progress—it symbolizes VA's commitment toward building a more inclusive health care environment.

On June 12-13, 2024, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took a significant step forward in enhancing health care for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer+ (LGBQ+) Veterans. VA's LGBTQ+ Health Program in collaboration with Office of Research and Development (ORD) hosted its first-ever field meeting aimed at forging a new path for LGBQ+ Veteran health research. This pivotal event brought together dedicated VA investigators from across the nation, including those in Health System Research with longstanding efforts in health equity, to craft a comprehensive research agenda that promises to identify and address the unique health needs of LGBQ+ Veterans.

Recognizing that sexual minorities have faced longstanding disparities in health care, VA has prioritized understanding and improving the health and well-being of LGBQ+ Veterans.  

"A thoughtful research agenda for LGBQ+ Veteran health gives research agencies and investigators a roadmap for the future," emphasized Michael Kauth, PhD, Executive Director of the LGBTQ+ Health Program. "Without a clear research agenda, we are steering blindly and hoping for the best." 

The two-day meeting was not just about setting priorities; it was a call to action to bridge knowledge gaps and develop robust support systems for ongoing and future research efforts. The collaborative meeting marked an important step toward addressing sexual orientation-based disparities within Veteran health care. 

The meeting was guided by objectives carefully outlined by a national planning committee consisting of investigators, subject matter experts, program offices, and research administrators formed in September 2023. The field meeting aimed to synthesize existing knowledge on LGBQ+ Veteran health issues, prioritize areas where understanding remains limited, and develop resources to bolster future research within VHA. 

Key outcomes of this gathering include an insightful research agenda set to be shared internally as a white paper in coming months and externally through peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, an implementation plan will guide key partners, such as investigators, funders, policymakers, and research consumers, in applying this agenda effectively. To further support researchers navigating this vital field of study, a research best practices guide is also planned to be distributed widely to the field.

Speakers and presenters included Dr. Steven Lieberman, Deputy Undersecretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration; Dr. Michael Kauth, Executive Director, LGBTQ+ Health Program; Dr. Crystal Henderson, Health Equity Program Manager, Health Services Research; Dr. Kelly Harper, Principal Investigator and Clinical Psychologist at National Center for PTSD, Behavioral Sciences Division, VA Boston Healthcare System; MAJ (Retired) Toni Hightower, Human-Centered Designer, Veterans Experience Office; Dr. John Pachankis, Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Public Health, Psychiatry, and Psychology at Yale University; Melissa Braganza, MPH, QUERI Deputy Director; Dr. Sylvia Fisher, Deputy Director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at SAMHSA; Dr. Mari Kimura, Senior Program Officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute; Dr. Karen Parker, Director of the Sexual and Gender Minority Research Office at NIH; and Dr. Amy Kilbourne, Acting Director of Health Systems Research. 

This inaugural meeting represents more than just progress—it symbolizes VA’s commitment toward building a more inclusive health care environment. 

For more information about upcoming initiatives, including plans for a future research meeting focused on transgender and gender diverse Veterans or how you can contribute to enhancing LGBQ+ Veteran health care please reach out to or visit VHA LGBTQ+ Health Program - Patient Care Services (

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