During the required capstone project, each student in the LGBT Health Policy and Practice Program creates a project designed to improve health outcomes for LGBT people. The capstone is based on a transformative service-learning experience and results in a product, innovation or outcome that can be applied in existing community settings.
Most students repurpose their capstones for résumé material or use them as real-world case studies to further their current careers. Many alumni have produced especially successful capstones that led to publication or policy changes at universities, on Capitol Hill or in local government.
- Choosing a Topic
Each capstone project is unique. Generally, capstones should aim to address gaps in service delivery, improve direct patient support, supplement community resources or support policy initiatives designed to reduce LGBT health disparities. Faculty facilitators assist students with their project conception.
- Choosing a Host Site
Capstones can be focused within hospital, private practice, community clinic, educational facility, government agency or partner organization settings. The LGBT Health Policy and Practice Program has partnered with many Washington, D.C. area sites, and students can browse past projects for suggestions.
- Working With Faculty Facilitators
Every student receives training on program intervention, evaluation and project management advice specific to their capstone. The LGBTHP&P Program’s many faculty and subject-matter experts help students incorporate both qualitative and quantitative measures that capture the real impact of their work. Faculty facilitators guide students as they conceive, design and develop their implementation and evaluation plan. Students work closely with faculty throughout the certificate program — both virtually and during scheduled in-person meetings during campus residencies.
Each capstone project also involves at least one community partner to ensure community support, resources and local expertise. Institutional partners provide counsel, assistance and/or field experience for students.
- Finding Community Partners
Each capstone project also involves at least one community partner to ensure community support, resources and local expertise. Institutional partners provide counsel, assistance and/or field experience for students.
Capstone Partner Sites
Some of our institutional partners include:
- American Psychological Association
- Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center
- Center for American Progress
- Children’s National Medical Center Gender Development Program
- District of Columbia Department of Health
- Fenway Institute
- Human Rights Campaign
- International Psychology Network for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Issues
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- Whitman-Walker Health
- Various university positions
Sampling of Capstone Projects
Dr. Ntlotleng Mabena, '18, used her capstone to address the mental health needs of lesbian women living in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. She conducted a survey and used the findings to educate lesbian women in these communities on various mental health conditions through workshops and social media. She also planned sensitivity workshops for health care providers to help them better serve lesbian women who come to their facilities.
Gretchen Gasteier, ’14, developed a program to reduce the stigma surrounding lesbian and bisexual women who are HIV positive in South Africa. Her capstone developed a support system for women who feel socially isolated and worked to increase rates of treatment adherence to HIV medication. She partnered with South African organizations that work with lesbian and bisexual women on health care and HIV activism.
Damián Cabrera Candelaria, '15, set up a research component that collects LGBTQ scientific literature to support work at a health services community center he co-founded in Puerto Rico. The result, Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ Services Directory, helps connect people with medical providers on the island who are sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ community.
Lore Espinoza Guerrero, ’15, focused on health care disparities and discrimination in the trans community in Colombia. She organized monthly hygiene kit deliveries to those in need, clothing drives, art workshops and leisure activities. Her capstone led to the founding of her own nonprofit for LGBTQ Latin American people, Tacones Morados Research and Art Collective.
Carl Streed, ’15, performed a review of implicit bias and attitudes of health professional students as they relate to the health care outcomes of LGBT patients. His capstone provided him the research he needed to complete a chapter in the clinical guide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Healthcare, among other publications.
Additional Capstone Projects
- Pedagogy, Education and Curriculum Development
Sharon J. Glezen, '14
MD, FACP. Williams College, 1983; University of Connecticut School of Medicine, 1987
Sharon conducted a review of existing LGBT health curricula and literature on LGBT education in leading medical schools in order to redesign the first year medical school curriculum in LGBT health at the University of Rochester Medical School.
The curriculum incorporates components of a “flipped classroom” design as well as training in communication skills regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and comprehensive content addressing specific health care needs of LGBT patients that will translate into improved patient care.
Mentors: Kristen Eckstrand, PhD in Neuroscience and Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, associate professor in Departments of Anesthesiology and Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt School of Medicine, Nashville, TN. Both are co-Directors, Vanderbilt School of Medicine Program for LGBTI Health.
Nicholas E. Grant, '14
PhD ‘15 in Clinical Psychology, Palo Alto University, California
Nick developed a diversity training guide and presentation materials to educate frontline service providers of aging sexual minority populations. This aims to facilitate respectful and culturally sensitive communication when underserved populations make preliminary contacts with agencies serving older adults.
Partner: Charter Wellness, a San Francisco Bay Area agency offering physical and mental health providers as well as community and social components for healthy aging.
Mentor: Laura Natta, founder, Cross Point Wellness, Redwood City/San Carlos, CA.
Chris Obermeyer, '15
M.Ed.’13 in Curriculum and Instruction, Education Policy and Leadership, American University, Washington, D.C., B.Sc.’10 (Hons.) in Biology and Religious Studies and ’09 (Hons) Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY.
Chris researched problems in the health curricula of secondary schools, specifically sexual education programs and education about LGBTQ issues. He found that the population of LGB youth in the United States is close to 750,000, and that these youth experience higher rates of use of substances, including cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol, psychiatric disorders and suicidal thoughts, and are more likely to engage in risk behaviors like unprotected sex and sex with more than one partner. His findings in regards to sexual education showed that schools in the United States are not always required to teach sexual education, and those that are often emphasize abstinence programs with no regard for the sexual health of LGBTQ populations.
Chris’s recommendations, based on his findings, included discussions of sex, gender, and sexual orientation in sexual education classes, methods of protection from pregnancy and STIs, healthy relationships, positive representations of different types of families, and the mandated use of non-gendered terminology in classes. His capstone project stated that these changes could initiate cultural changes and shifts toward acceptance and healthy living for LGBTQ youth.
Pearl L. Outland, '14
BS ’13 in Psychology, University of Wisconsin at Parkside
Pearl developed a plan to expand current public middle and high school HIV curriculum from focusing solely on the individual’s role in preventing transmission, to include an examination of the interpersonal factors that contribute to the spread of HIV. Information is delivered in a culturally competent manner that is highly accessible to all students and available on-line for free, eliminating time and expense to educate individual teachers on how to teach this type of curriculum.
Materials and assignments focus on the particular socio-cultural concerns of LGBT youth. Some stimuli have heterosexual or cisgender subjects, to be relevant and usable in public school classrooms, which contain a mix of heterosexual and LGBT individuals.
Mentor: Jolie McKenna MS, Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Southeastern Wisconsin.
Carly A. Scarton, '14
BS ’08 Saint Francis University, Loretto, Pa., M.Ed. ’10 and PhD 2015 in Counselor Education & Supervision Program, The Pennsylvania State University
Carly wrote a children’s book, unique in its presentation and subject matter, that centers on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. The book illuminates injustices faced by the LGBT population and help children learn about ways they can advocate for social change. It also adds to the counseling field by producing empirically driven work that informs the final product.
The ultimate aim is to integrate this children’s book into guidance lessons or elementary school curriculum. The health focus is on the mental health and wellbeing of the LGBT population, in the hopes of reducing stigma and encouraging children to become allies and advocates.
Mentor: Talcott Broadhead, M.S.W.; Social justice advocate based in Washington State.
Ronald L. Schlittler, '14
BA ‘94 in Journalism and Sociology, University of Oregon,Master of International Policy & Practice ’09, George Washington University
Ron developed a train-the-trainer workshop that can be conducted by webinar and at international psychology conferences to provide psychologists around the world with an evidence-based framework for working with local LGBTI human rights community leaders to develop culturally specific well-being resiliency strategies.
The workshops also help develop prejudice reduction activities grounded in intergroup contact theory that are culturally specific. Partners: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns Office at the American Psychological Association and the International Psychology Network for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Issues.
Mentor: Sharon G. Horne, PhD, Graduate Program Director, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
- Multidisciplinary Health
Damián Cabrera Candelaria, '15
MA '15 in Sociology, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, BS ‘11 Industrial Biotechnology and Industrial Microbiology, Mayagüez Campus, Puerto Rico
Damián developed a LGBT Health Services Directory based in and designed for Puerto Rico that aims to create a network of LGBT-friendly medical providers. Damián found The Directory was developed in response to research which showed that a number of LGBT individuals in Puerto Rico experience health disparities due to inferior care. Future recommendations aim towards increased cultural sensibility trainings and broadening the directory to include housing, employment, and other areas with disparities in them.
Colin J. Davis, '14
BS ‘12 in Biology and English, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va and James Monroe Scholar and pre-med graduate
Colin researched the Millennial LGBT experience as a Healthcare Consumer. Qualitative research on the experiences of LGBT patients with the healthcare system has drawn attention to the concerning practice of heteronormative sometimes perceived as hostile administration of care in ways that can be alienating to the LGBT patient and consequently discouraging of further healthcare utilization.
However, no research has focused specifically on the experiences and perceptions of the Millennial cohort, a historically and culturally unique subset of the LGBT population born approximately between 1984 and 2000. Through the use of a peer-driven focus group, I qualitatively identified themes of attitudes, perceptions and experiences of healthcare as a Millennial LGBT in order to inform future research toward the development of healthcare practices, which will be both affirmative and culturally competent for generations of LGBT patients to come.
Mentor: Dr. Richard Ruth teaches and mentors students in the PsyD program in the Professional Psychology Program at The George Washington University
Kristen J. Hartwick, '15
BS ‘14 in Public Health, minor in Biology (pre-med), George Washington University, Emergency Medicine Communication Specialist at Medical Faculty Associates in Washington, D.C.
Kristen’s capstone research centered around gender nonconforming youth in the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) Metropolitan Area, specifically those who are patients at Children’s National Medical Center in the Gender and Sexuality Development Program. This program sees about thirty to fifty children each year, and these children are screened with a Gender Identity Questionnaire, which Kristen studied in detail. She analyzed the questions and weighed the advantages and disadvantages of the questionnaire that was in use, including its efficiency and convenience, and its use of a binary gender system. Kristen also studied this questionnaire and other commonly used questionnaires in relation to gender fluidity and gender identity and dysphoria.
Kristen made conclusions based on her research and observations of presently used gender identity questionnaires, and created a revised gender identity questionnaire that incorporated factors like non-binary language and removing assigned pronouns. She also noted that other aspects of a child’s life, like social development, school history, and environment and stressors should be incorporated into future questionnaires to promote inclusivity and for researchers to gain a full understanding of each child’s experience with gender.
Gregory Haskin, '14
BA ’13 in Psychology, George Washington University
Gregory researched different approaches to speech feminization and masculinization including speech articulation, rate, intonation, pragmatics, and resonance. He developed a short presentation for patients explaining major concerns related to speech feminization and masculinization as part of the process of a transition.
The aim is to limit psychological distress in patients, increase caregiver knowledge, and build more productive provider-patient relationships for transgender individuals.
Mentor: Dr. Adrienne B. Hancock, Assistant Professor of Speech and Hearing Science, School of Speech and Hearing, The George Washington University.
Cramer McCullen, '14
M.D 2016, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Cramer conducted a systematic literature review of data since 1987 regarding LGBT populations and smoking cessation under the project title Smoking Cessation among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Populations. Higher rates of smoking in LGBT populations compared to heterosexual peers is due to minority stress, discrimination, tobacco marketing, acceptance, and social network structures.
This publishable review of data, available nationwide and worldwide to providers and intervention programs for LGBT populations, will impact the standard of care guidelines for LGBT smoking cessation and direct future research endeavors.
Mentor: Joseph Lee, Doctoral Candidate, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health- Health Behavior PhD program, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Nathaniel D. Swift-Erslev, '14
BS ’11 in Nursing, BA in Sociology & Certificate in Women’s Studies, University of Pittsburgh
Nathaniel performed a gap analysis to identify baseline data on patient portal usability and barriers to portal adoption. Information gathered will help develop interventions to increase number of portal enabled patients and effectiveness of the portal to support clinical outcomes for HIV+ LGBT patients in an urban community health clinic.
Partner: MetroHealth community health clinic in Washington, DC with recently implemented eCW Patient Portal. A safety-net provider, MetroHealth serves a large portion of LGBT identified patients and 30% of clients are HIV+. Currently, only 25% of clients are portal activated, with no data on frequency or type of functions being used.
Mentor: Murray Penner, Deputy Executive Director, NASTAD (National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors), Washington, DC.
Adam R. Ward, '15
MS ’14 in Comparative Biomedical Sciences and BS ’11 in Environmental Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Adam surveyed medical providers and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI)-identified students at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and assessed medical providers knowledge of, and comfort with, LGBTI health issues and patients. He also gathered information on LGBTI-identified students’ healthcare experience, health-related behaviors, and healthcare needs, at NC State University.
Adam’s results revealed that medical providers felt as having fair or poor knowledge on certain topics and indicated as wanting to know more, and that sexual health history check-ups have often been missing or inconsistent from their routines. For LGBTI students, the survey results showed that their medical providers rarely asked about sexual orientation or gender identity. From the survey results, Adam developed several recommendations for NCSU to adopt in order to address the needs of LGBTI students which include tailored “Project SAFE” training for medical providers, creation of a “sexual health” visit type in the SHS Healthweb appointment system, and providing student with more opportunities to learn about sexual health and STI testing resources.
- Public Policy
John P. Cullen, '14
PhD ’99 in Cardiovascular Pharmacology, Queens University, Belfast, Ireland
John was successful in getting the University of Rochester to provide transition-related coverage to treat gender dysphoria in student and employee health benefits plans. This addresses health insurance disparities for the transgender population at the University of Rochester and promotes an environment where all employee and student human dignity is respected. The University of Rochester is a private research university in upstate New York with approximately 22,000 faculty/staff and 9,000 students. It is the largest employer in the Rochester region and 6th largest private employer in New York State.
Mentor: Jamison Green, J.D. Transsexual author and advocate, President-Elect of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health
Jeff Goodman, '14
BA ’79 in Political Science, Tufts University; MPH 2013, San Jose State University
Jeff developed a policy statement and recommendations on the topic of LGBT bullying. The statement was approved by the membership of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in 2014 after rigorous peer review. The LGBT Caucus of Public Health Professionals in affiliation with APHA provides educational interchange, opportunities for LGBT and APHA members to combat homophobia and heterosexism, and ensure that LGBT public health issues are addressed through APHA policy mechanisms. An independent organization, the LGBT Caucus is chartered to submit policy proposals to APHA’s Action Board and Governing Council.
Mentor: Dr. Peter Shin, PhD, MPH, is Director of the Geiger Gibson Program (GGP) in Community Health Policy, and Associate Professor in the GW Milken Institute of Public Health.
- Community Building, Organizing and Social Media
Gretchen Gasteier, '14
BA ’12 in Woman’s Studies & Public Health, George Washington University
Gretchen developed a program to reduce stigma of lesbian and bisexual women who are HIV+ in South Africa, offer a support system for women who feel socially isolated, and increase rates of treatment adherence to HIV medication. Partners: local and national South African organizations that work with lesbian and bisexual women on health care and HIV activism.
Mentor: Julie Ost, Sexual Health Education Specialist, Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Washington, DC.
Lore Espinoza Guerrero, '15
BA ’12 (Cum Laude) in International Studies, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, Study abroad at Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico; Università di Roma La Sapienza, Rome, Italy
Lore’s capstone project centered around the climate for LGBTQ people in Colombia, where LGBTQ people experience high amounts of discrimination, health disparities, and lack of access to government services and healthcare. In response to this, Lore formed Tacones Morados Research and Art Collective, a non-profit organization for LGBTQ-identified Latin-American people. Tacones Morados has three lines of action: Art Participation and Workshops, Wellbeing Actions, and Research. The organization is in its first stage of action, which is primarily identifying resources established under Colombian law, and researching and publicizing the disparities that LGBTQ Colombians face, specifically transgender populations. Tacones Morados has also delivered hygiene kits on a monthly basis to those in need since August 2014 and has organized clothing drives, art workshops, and leisure activities. The organization plans to continue with its research and expand its reach to LGBTQ populations in Colombia and across Latin America.
Lore Espinoza Guerrero was awarded the Director's Award for Most Impactful Capstone Project 2014-2015 at the 2015 LGBT Health Forum.
Mathew Kaye, '14
BA ’13 in Psychology, minor in English, GW’s Columbian College of Arts
Mathew researched and analyzed Gay Straight Alliance groups (GSAs) in the Washington, DC school system. I interviewed the members of a number of GSAs, to assess their effectiveness in making the school a safe environment for LGBT students.
I discovered what allows some GSAs to be successful while others fail. Experts in this field analyzed my results, in order to understand how GSAs can be improved in order to be more effective.
Mentor: Anika Warner, GSA network specialist for SMYAL, which empowers, supports, and mentors LGBT youth advocates and leaders.
"The impact the capstone has had on me personally and professionally is nothing short of profound. Contributing to the health and well-being of my community in such a tangible and impactful way was the highlight of my educational career."