Hello! My name is Lee Lemus, and I am so excited to be gearing up for my research this summer. I am currently a first year medical student in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, where we pursue a research master’s in science alongside our MD degree. While many i4Y/CGPH Fellows are traveling all over the world, I will be conducting research on the topic I’m passionate about right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ll be interviewing transgender homeless youth on the health issues they experience.
Why trans homeless youth? Well, first and foremost, because I’ve witnessed the devastating effects of homelessness and housing instability on my LGBTQ community. In my previous work as a health disparities researcher, I was mostly involved in studies on food insecurity, including for people living with HIV in the Bay Area and Latino immigrants. As I got deeper into that research world, I came to realize how little research there was on the social and structural issues influencing transgender health, and I also realized the degree to which housing instability affects both food insecurity and health. We know that about 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ (compared to about 5%-10% LGBTQ folks in the general population), and that a disproportionate number of homeless youth in that 40% are transgender – but outside of anecdotal evidence, we don’t even have good numbers describing how many homeless youth are trans. I want to help physicians, nonprofits and policymakers understand the extent of the homelessness crisis for transgender youth. Also, by describing what factors lead to poor health outcomes for trans youth, I hope to outline points where we can best intervene.
In this last month before my i4Y/CGPH Summer Research Fellowship begins, I am getting all the pieces of my research plan together to start interviewing youth. I am meeting with leadership and employees at Bay Area nonprofits and clinics that serve trans homeless youth, drafting questions to ask during youth interviews, and running all my research materials by the UC Berkeley Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects for approval of my study. I am also meeting a lot with my fantastic research mentors, including Dr. Coco Auerswald, who has really helpful expertise on youth homelessness.
All in all, I am really looking forward to spending a summer deeply immersed in trans youth communities. I am also really grateful to i4Y and the CGPH for supporting me in this research, and for supporting trans homeless youth!