My primary responsibilities include managing data collection efforts, proposal development, data analysis, study coordination, project management, write-up of findings for journal articles and presentations, and assisting in future grant submissions.
Growing up in rural Illinois, I was faced with the challenges of the landscape and have spent my academic and professional career immersed in these environments. I began my educational career at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2009 and, after a gap, graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work in 2018. I stayed within the department and completed a Master’s of Social, specializing in health and mental health, while also a fellow of the Trauma Based Behavioral Health Fellowship through SIU. Following completion of this degree in 2019, I began my PhD in Health Education at SIU which was conferred May 2022. During my graduate schooling, I worked as a graduate assistant with Wellness and Health Promotion Services where I provided alcohol and drug interventions, as well as specialized projects to improve sexual health among college students. I also worked as a research assistant under my advisor, focusing on veteran populations. In 2020, I joined a local behavioral health agency as a therapist and later served as clinical director until I joined the Department of Population Science and Policy as a postdoctoral fellow in 2022. In July 2023, I joined the department as Research Assistant Professor.
The work I engage in focuses on rural health inequities, specifically among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals and people who use drugs. My work with LGBTQ+ health has included a Blue Cross Blue Shield-funded rural cohort study, led by Dr. Jenkins, and has provided essential insights into the health of rural LGBTQ+ Illinoisans. Through this work, we have engaged a community advisory board to inform and guide projects, reinforcing the importance of community-based research. Other work includes understanding and intervening to increase HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening among individuals assigned female at birth.
I center substance research in harm reduction and critical drug studies, recognizing the socio-cultural contexts and motivations for drug use. Working with a local harm reduction organization, services such as sterile syringes, safer sex supplies, emergency contraception, and overdose prevention have been implemented and increased through a large project led by Dr. Jenkins and Dr. Mai Pho (University of Chicago). Through funding received by the CDC Foundation, a primary care peer navigation program our team has developed and implemented a primary care peer navigation program within the harm reduction organization to increase primary care utilization among people who use drugs. Through collaborations with academic and community partners, I have the privilege of working with a community advisory board made up of this population which serves as an essential tool to bridge researcher and community trust. Other interests of mine within substance use is the intersection of multiple identities. This includes chemsex among men who have sex with men and the experiences of rural Black people who use drugs.