The Queer Health Task Force is a student organization dedicated to promoting the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex people. ODCI sat down with a few members of the executive board (from left to right: Samy Galvez de Leon, Isha Mittal, and Stephen Gamboa) to learn more about QHTF’s mission and recent accomplishments, and identify ways Mailman students can get involved in the broader community.
What experiences in your life led you to this work?
Isha: I have always been interested in health and medicine. I also wanted to be more efficient than just being a doctor. And so while I was looking at graduate degree plans as an undergraduate student, I realized that I could take courses in areas like global health, health policy, and epidemiology and found the field of public health to be a good fit. I found Queer Health Taskforce to serve a population that I care deeply about, especially the health of that population. I enjoyed being part of the organization my first year so much that I applied to be on the board.
Stephen: Prior to coming to the Mailman School, I was working for a policy team at a non-profit organization in Washington D.C. My work focused on the health of queer people living with HIV as well as preventing the spread of HIV in the queer community in a thoughtful and meaningful way. During my time at the non-profit organization, my colleagues expressed the importance of a background in public health and the things you can learn in a degree program like this. That’s the reason I came to Mailman and I immediately got involved in the Queer Health Taskforce so that I could supplement my education with involvement in an on-campus organization that serves to promote queer health.
Can you tell us about QHTF’s current initiatives and recent successes?
Isha: This year we are focusing more on fostering a stronger queer community for students to socialize with each other. This came from personal experiences and anecdotes from other students who were looking for a queer community at Mailman. This led to “You Can Sit with Us”, an initiative for QHTF members to inform and invite other members on Facebook to join in on study sessions or grab lunch together. This new component served as a casual get together outside of our usual formal meetings.
Many of our events this year proactively served and recognized the many segments of the LGBTQQI community. We promoted a celebratory Bisexual Awareness Day event where students met at Big Gay Ice Cream Shop to socialize. On November 8th, we hosted an Intersex Day of Solidarity movie screening of ‘Intersexion.’ We held a Coming-Out Day event for the community to watch TED talks about coming out and having a discussion on coming out and other personal experiences.
Samy: Queer Health Taskforce has also been doing a good job at collaborating with other organizations like Sexual and Reproductive Health Action Group and the Black and Latinx Student Caucus. I want to take this time to also recognize Isha for going the extra mile and for being the moving force behind QTHF. She has been pushing these type of activities and is including the suggestions and voices from these other organizations. She recognizes the importance of being intersectional so that we are addressing not just LGBT issues but also on issues of race, sexual health, etc.
How can our students learn more and do more?
Google is a helpful resource. You don’t want to put the burden on these populations to educate you.
Make sure to respect Queer people’s space and learn to step back sometimes as an ally.
For Queer people: