“I never once thought, coming into this school, that I would be working for a scuba diving company as an occupational therapist. Never once did I think I would get to travel the world and interact with so many amazing people who have so many challenges and so many experiences—and be part of something so life-changing.” So says Jesseca Samaniego, OTD ‘21, who focused her capstone project in USAHS’ Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program on how to help people with disabilities learn to dive. This project has turned into a consulting job with Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), plus opportunities to present at national conferences and international events. The Diving Life Young Jesseca grew up in Oceanside, California, where she Read more
For Pride Month, we’re focusing the USAHS blog on topics relating to the LGBTQIA2+ and other intersectional communities. For this post, we spoke to Matthew Chase, MASP, MLIS, a staff member whose efforts are expanding the resources available to students and faculty around healthcare equity for LGBTQIA2+ people.
Chase, the librarian on our San Marcos campus, says that in 2020, as anti-racism protests swept the country, some students, faculty and staff called for more work to be done at USAHS around diversity—such as embedding more discussion points in the curriculum about marginalized communities. “I started thinking about how, at the Library, we could better support students who are looking for evidence-based information about treating patients in the LGBTQIA2+ community and communities of color,” he says.
Workshops for the University Community
To that end, Chase spearheaded a series of live, interactive workshops, called “Contexts,” for students (including prospective students), faculty, staff and alumni that engage on topics of intersectionality in research. One of the workshops in this series is happening next week. “Researching Beyond the Binary: LGBTQIA2+ Communities” is an online workshop about ensuring inclusive research practices and healthcare justice for people with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations. These communities often experience discrimination within healthcare systems, which leads to limited healthcare access and consequently, adverse physical and mental health outcomes.
“Queer theory and intersectionality are informing our approach to improving equity of care,” Chase says.
“We’ll engage in conversation about strategies to find and create evidence-based information for LGBTQIA+ populations. We will talk about different perspectives and experiences with healthcare. We’re all intersectional. Different aspects of ourselves—race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and more—overlap and interact to inform our lived experiences with navigating social institutions such as research and medicine—as researchers, practitioners, and patients.”
The one-hour workshop will be held Weds., June 8, 2022, at 5 p.m. Pacific time. You can register here. The workshop will be recorded and made available for those who are interested but unable to attend.
Chase developed the first workshop in the Contexts series, “How to Be an Antiracist Researcher,” in collaboration with Esther Garcia, the Dallas campus librarian. Eric Robinson, the scholarly communications librarian, also collaborated with Chase on the workshop “Unlocking Equity in Open Access Publishing.” Other workshops have focused on cognitive bias, unequal power relations in research, and biases in Internet and database searches.
The JEDI Research Guide
Another great resource is the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Research guide, a microsite that Chase created within the Library’s website. The JEDI guide features information about antiracism, a section on LGBTQIA2+ resources, and the other topics covered in the workshops.
The LGBTQIA2+ module includes “The Alphabet of LGBTQIA2+,” which defines the letters in the growing acronym. “The Genderbread Person” is an interactive graphic that explains the differences between gender identity, gender expression, anatomical sex and sexual orientation.
“It was inspiring to create this guide,” Chase says. “We’re offering information, but we’re also engaging students so they can learn the meaning of ever-changing terminology and know which terms to use in information searches. They can increase their information literacy skills as they learn about the lived experiences of people within queer communities.” In the future, he would like to expand the JEDI guide to reflect the voices of queer students and faculty, as well as community members of color.
Mitigating Bias in Searches and Results
Chase explains that online search engines typically serve up information that often represent mainstream (e.g., white, straight, male, English-speaking) populations. “There can be racial and homophobic biases, even gender biases, in what you get,” he says. “Or the results might perpetuate stereotypes about people with disabilities or mental illness. Even scholarly databases can have biases creep in. For example, in Pubmed, you can still see outdated search terms like ‘homosexual.’” He notes that researchers in the global South may face a language barrier and limited funding, so their work doesn’t get widely disseminated—a problem that also manifests in rural U.S. communities.
Thanks to Chase’s outreach efforts, students and faculty from across the university have reached out to him for help. A student whose OTD capstone project was about pregnancy asked him about language to help define the population of pregnant people they were researching. A faculty member sought his recommendations for queer theory literature as part of their research. “It’s a gratifying experience to see how faculty and students are exploring how to better serve underserved communities,” he says.
“There’s a shift at the university, but we can increase the momentum,” he continues.
“This work will always be ongoing. We need to work on putting our awareness into practice.”
He and his fellow librarians are constantly identifying opportunities to increase access, such as providing access to some eBooks with audio narration for students with visual impairments and adding the GASP Measures Database (measures for researching queer populations) to the library’s collection to better support student and faculty research. Chase says that Dr. Julie Evener, Director of Library Services, is “super supportive” about acting on these issues and reaching students and faculty in innovative ways. In 2020 and 2021, Chase hosted virtual fireside readings of works by LGBTQIA2+ authors and a digital zine workshop for Pride Month.
Waking up to Other Experiences
Chase’s interest in issues of diversity began while attending a high school with primarily students of color. “My teachers assumed I was going to college and gave me a lot of support around that,” he says. “But I didn’t see the same thing happening with my classmates of color. That bothered me. I became interested in sociology and developed a lens to critically examine these issues.” He earned his master’s degree in sociology and later, integrated this understanding with librarianship. “However, my knowledge is limited because I’m bound by my own lived experience, as a straight white man,” he says.
Chase has a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree from San Jose State University and a Master of Arts in Sociological Practice (MASP) from California State University, San Marcos. In 2021, he had the honor of winning the USAHS Board’s Excellence in Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Award given to a staff member.
Other Intersectional Resources
- The Scholarly Skills Community on Blackboard features the Intersectional Research Practices module, which further explores topics on intersectionality, antiracism, and LGBTQIA2+ equity. Current students and faculty can earn a micro-credential for completing the module. The Community also includes the modules “Cognitive Bias in the Literature Search” and “Systemic Bias in Internet Search Engines and Scholarly Databases.”
- As part of a capstone project, OTD student Selena Jacquez created a cultural responsiveness toolkit for faculty that’s hosted on iLIFE, the University’s faculty development institute. It includes teaching resources and toolkits about cultural competence when working with underserved and marginalized communities, including LGBTQIA2+ patients.
- Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) and Students Promoting Equity, Action, & Knowledge (P.E.A.K.) are student and professional groups that address diversity, inclusion, and equity. Both have chapters on USAHS campuses and online. Look for a blog post about these groups later this month.
- The Austin COTAD group is hosting a Juneteenth Parade on June 18.
- The Miami COTAD group is hosting a Pride-themed bake sale.