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The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Health (SOGI Health) Research Group

Supporting the Development and Health of LGBTQ Young People

The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Health (SOGI Health) Research Group is affiliated with the Department of Family Science and the University of Maryland Prevention Research Center. The research group convenes faculty, students, and community partners in an effort to better understand and support the positive development and health of LGBTQ young people.

Department: Family Science
Room Number: 1142K
Director: Jessica Fish 

Office Phone Number: (301) 405-4008

Graduate Student Opportunities

I welcome the opportunity to work with graduate and undergraduate students interested in the intersection between sexual orientation, gender identity, and health. Volunteer and credit-based research assistantship positions are available in my research lab. If you are a graduate or undergraduate student who is interested in working with our lab, please complete this application form and email it to me at

If you are a prospective graduate student interested in doing research in this area, please contact me at

Assessing the Social Consequences of COVID-19 


People: Long Doan (PI); Liana Sayer (co-I); Jessica Fish (co-I)
Funding: National Science Foundation (SES-2029963); University of Maryland Vice President for Research 

The study examines the impacts of COVID-19 and social distancing efforts on behavior, time spent with others, use of technology, and mental and physical wellbeing, with particular interest in how these effects vary by gender, sexuality, family structure, race/ethnicity, and immigrant status.


LGBTQ Community Centers and Programs

Rainbow drawing sidewalk chalk

People: Jessica Fish (PI), Natasha Williams

Funding: UMD Graduate School, UMD SPH Gold Award

This mixed-method project examines LGBTQ youth-serving community-based centers around the country to document their service provision efforts and impact.




LGBTQ Family Socialization

Hands holding a pride heart

People: Jessica Fish (PI), Mia Smith-Bynum (co-I), Natasha Williams, Zack Berman

Funding: Lesbian Health FundFunded by the Lesbian Health Fund (GLMA)

This project explores the potential protective effects of positive parental messaging regarding sexual minority girls’ sexual minority identities and whether these practices buffer the negative effects of LGBQ-related discrimination on mental health and substance use.

SGM Youth Substance Use: Subgroup differences, risk, and protective factors

Chalks of different colors

People: Jessica Fish (M-PI), Ryan Watson (University of Connecticut)

Funding: NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse (1R03DA046827)

This study examines how sexual and gender minority youth experiences of distal and proximal minority stressors are associated with substance use (i.e., alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and polysubstance use) and the potential protective influence of family and teacher support. 

Jessica Fish, faculty member of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland
Jessica Fish (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor, Family Science
Core Research Scientist, University of Maryland Prevention Research Center

Dr. Jessica Fish is a human development and family science scholar whose research focuses on the health and well-being of sexual and gender minority (i.e., lesbian/gay, bisexual, and transgender) people and their families. Broadly, Dr. Fish studies the socio-cultural and interpersonal factors that shape the development and health of sexual and gender minority youth and adults. Her overarching goal is to identify modifiable factors that contribute to sexual and gender minority health disparities in order to inform developmentally-sensitive policies, programs, and prevention strategies that promote the health of sexual and gender minority people across the life course.

Graduate Students

Natasha Williams, Graduate Research Assistant of School of Public Health from the University of Maryland
Natasha Williams (she/her/hers)

Natasha is a second-year Family Science doctoral student. After undergrad at Florida State, she completed her M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy at Purdue University Calumet. She has been the TA or instructor of record for courses in families, poverty, and affluence; statistics; human sexuality; and behavior disorders. Her research documents mental health disparities for sexual and gender minority folx of color and their access to treatment. In her free time, Natasha enjoys experimenting with global cuisines, visiting with family, and cheering on her Seminoles and Jacksonville Jaguars in football.



Zack Berman, graduate student of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland
Zack Berman (he/him/his)

Zachary Berman is a second-year Couple and Family Therapy Masters student from Gaithersburg, Maryland. He earned a B.A. in Psychology and Criminology with a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland in 2013. As an undergraduate, Zack worked as an intern investigator for the Washington, D.C. Public Defender Service, a research assistant in the Stereotyping Prejudice and Intergroup Relations Laboratory (SPIRL), and a senior staff writer for UMD’s student-run newspaper The Diamondback. After graduation, Zack worked for five years as a rehabilitation counselor for Cornerstone Montgomery, Inc. He was eventually promoted to Site Administrator of the Foundations Day Program, where he worked daily with clients suffering from a broad range of severe mental illnesses. He also taught the agency’s “Secondary Trauma and Self-Care” training to new employees. Zack’s research and clinical interests include sexuality, meta-communication, adolescence, and the influence of the criminal justice system on families. Outside of work and school, Zack is a musician and an author. He regularly performs in venues around the D.C. area and recently had his first novelette published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. In June of 2018, Zack helped to raise around $6000 for Planned Parenthood by performing as one of the core musicians in a special benefit show. Unfortunately, his dog Misty will not be attending school this year.

Undergraduate Students

Jillian Parisi, alumna of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland
Jillian Parisi (she/her/hers)

Jillian is a sophomore originally from Severna Park, Maryland. She is a Public Health Science major and is a second-year Global Public Health Scholar. Jillian began working with Dr. Jessica Fish in January 2019 where she has assisted on various projects by collecting variables relevant to LGBTQ+ health from the NHANES as well as other national surveys. She has worked on projects related to international trends in LGBTQ+ youth health, Q Chat Space, and LBG women’s experiences with IVF. Due to her passion for public health, Jillian is interested in studying health inequities the LGBTQ+ community faces due to social stigma and discrimination.



Brennan Winer, student of University of Maryland
Brennan Winer (he/him/his)

Brennan is a sophomore Public Health Science and Government and Politics (International Relations) major studying ethical and policy protections for LGBT+ clients, students, supervisors, and educators in fields related to mental health. In addition, he is starting work on a project with the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association that will streamline comparative studies of LGBT+ mental health by conjoining US state and international indices for LGBT+ quality of life. He has been with the SOGI


Former Students 

Rachel Edsall, student of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland
Rachel Edsall (she/her/hers)

Rachel is a senior at the University of Maryland, studying public health science and sustainability studies, and takes part in research through the family science sexual orientation and gender identity lab (SOGI). She is passionate about epidemiology and finding ways to improve the health of target populations. Her drive to help others drew her to the SOGI lab where she is able to work on projects to improve access and delivery of needs to the LGBTQ population. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school to receive her master's degree in epidemiology.


Katherine Tomlinson, graduate student of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland
Katherine Tomlinson (Tee - she/her/hers)

Tee is a second-year Couple and Family Therapy Masters student. She earned undergraduate degrees in Intercultural Studies and Sociology. After graduating, she worked for a few years as a teacher and home visitor in programs focused on strengthening underserved families. Tee currently works as a Research Assistant in the Center for Early Childhood Education and Intervention at UMD and with Dr. Fish on her LGBQ Socialization project. She is also collaborating on a project on LGBTQ parenting with the SOGI Lab at UT Austin. Her research interests include family functioning, parenting, identity development, and play therapy. Outside of work and school, Tee enjoys reading, textile arts, and all things outdoors.


Issmatu Barrie, student of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland
Issmatu Barrie (she/her/hers)

Issmatu is a senior Behavioral and Community Health major at the University of Maryland. She has been volunteering at the SOGI Health Lab since 2018. Currently, her time at the lab is dedicated to the MIlestone Meta-Analysis study partnering with researchers at the University of Texas. She is committed to screening and reviewing scholarly articles for inclusion/exclusion in the study. In her free time, she is an avid NFL fan and has a passion for cooking.



Jackson Devadas, student of the University of Maryland
 Jackson Devadas (he/him/his)

Jackson is a junior at the University of Maryland, studying biology and statistics, and aids in research within the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) lab. He is interested in using epidemiological techniques to help improve the mental health outcomes of marginalized groups (i.e. minorities, LGBT folx, etc.) in a global context. He hopes to pursue a graduate degree in epidemiology and perform research at the intersections of genetics, social and physical environments, and mental illness.

Mereish, E. H., Parra, L. A., Watson, R. J., & Fish, J. N. (under review). Subtle minority stress and depressive symptoms among sexual and gender minority adolescents of color: Mediating role of self-esteem and sense of mastery. Prevention Science.

Paceley, M. S., +Greenwood, E., +Dikitsas, Z., Fish, J. N., McInroy, L., Riquino, M., & Henderson, S. (accepted). “They make these laws to put us back in our place”: A found poem on the trauma, hope, and resilience of transgender and gender diverse youth and discriminatory policies. Qualitative Inquiry.

Poteat, V. P., Watson, R. J., & Fish, J. N. (in press). Teacher support moderates associations among sexual identity outness, victimization, and academic performance among LGBQ+ youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Advanced online publication.

Fish, J. N., +Salerno, J., +Williams, N. D., Rinderknecht, G., +Drotning, K. J., Sayer, L., & Long, D. (in press). Sexual identity differences in health and wellbeing as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. LGBT Health. Advanced online publication.

Turpin, R., +Williams, N. D., +Akré, E. R., Boekeloo, B. O., & #Fish, J. N. (accepted). Differences in health care access and satisfaction across intersections of race/ethnicity and sexual identity. Academic Medicine. Advanced online publication.

+Kiekens, W. J., Baams, L., Fish, J. N., Watson, R. J. (in press). Associations of relationship experiences, dating violence, sexual harassment, and assault with alcohol use among sexual and gender minority adolescents. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Advanced online publication.  

Watson, R. J., Fish, J. N., Poteat, V. P., Wheldon, C. W., +Cunningham, C. A., Puhl, R., & Eaton, L. A. (in press). Teacher support, victimization, and alcohol use among sexual and gender minority youth: considering ethnoracial identity. Prevention Science. Advanced online publication.

Fish, J. N., Turpin, R., +Williams, N. D., & Boekeloo, B. O. (in press). Sexual identity differences in health care access and satisfaction: Findings from nationally representative data. American Journal of Epidemiology. Advanced online publication.

Fish, J. N., +Bishop. M. D., Russell, S. T. (2021). Developmental differences in sexual orientation and gender identity-related substance use disparities: Findings from population-based data. Journal of Adolescent Health, 68, 1162-1169.

+Salerno, J. P., +Shrader, C. H., ·Algarin, A., +Lee, J., & #Fish, J. N. (2020). Changes in alcohol use since the onset of COVID-19 are associated with psychological distress among sexual and gender minority university students in the U.S. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 221,108594.

Watson, R. J., Fish, J. N., Denary, W., +Caba, A., +Cunningham, C., & Eaton, L. A. (2021). LGBTQ state policies: A lever for reducing SGM youth substance use and bullying. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 221,108659.

Gordon, A. R., Fish, J. N., +Kiekens, W., Lightfoot, M., Frost, D. M., & Russell, S. T. (2021). Cigarette smoking and minority stress across age cohorts in a national sample of sexual minorities: Results from the generations study. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 55, 530-542. PMID: 32970788.

Fish, J. N., & Mittal, M. (2021). Mental health care providers are essential to the public health workforce and need support in the wake of COVID-19. Public Health Reports, 136(1), 14-17.

Paceley, M. S., +Okrey-Anderson, S., Fish, J. N., McInroy, L. B., Lin, M. (2021). Beyond a shared experience: Queer and trans youth navigating COVID-19. Qualitative Social Work. 20 (1-2), 97-104.

+Salerno, J., Devadas, J., Pease, M., Nketia, B., & #Fish, J. N. (2021). Sexual and gender minority stress amid the covid-19 pandemic: Implications for LGBTQ young persons’ mental health and well-being Public Health Reports.135 (6), 721-727.


Sad girl crying on set of stairs

Editorial: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts are Unethical and Harmful

Two experts in LGBTQ and young adult mental health, Dr. Jessica Fish (UMD SPH) and Dr. Stephen T. Russel (UT, Austin) describe the serious harms that LGBTQ youth experience from so-called “conversion therapy” efforts in a new editorial published in the American Journal of Public Health.


View of building from outside in a sunny day

Don Milton and Jessica Fish Receive Seed Grants for COVID-19 Research

Don Milton, professor of environmental health, and Jessica Fish, assistant professor of family science, each received seed grants from the UMD Division of Research for COVID-19-related research. 

Pride umbrella

UMD Prevention Research Center Appoints New Executive Leaders

To advance its mission to support LGBTQ+ mental health, the University of Maryland Prevention Research Center (UMD-PRC) has appointed Dr. Elizabeth Aparicio, assistant professor of behavioral and community health as the Deputy Director of Clinical Training and Intervention and Dr. Jessica Fish, assistant professor of family science as Deputy Director for Research and Evaluation. 

Pride colors

Family Science Assistant Professor, Jessica Fish, Publishes Three Papers, and Receives Several Grants and Awards for LGBTQ+ Mental Health Research

In the past few months, Dr. Jessica Fish, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Science has published a slew of articles on LGBTQ+ mental health and substance abuse and has received multiple research grants from institutions like the National Institutes of Health.

Hands together in the center

Study shows benefit of community organizations in supporting LGBTQ youth mental health

In a new Journal of Youth and Adolescence article, Family Science Assistant Professor Dr. Jessica Fish explores who engages in and benefits from communal LGBTQ organizations. The paper found young LGBTQ persons who participated in community-based LGBTQ organizations were more likely to have better mental health and less likely to use or abuse substances compared to their peers.

Pride ribbons

Researchers Win Data Contract to Study LGBTQ Health Disparities

University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers won a competitive data contract to access the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) national healthcare consumer data to study LGBTQ disparities in access to healthcare.

Illustration of girl inside a bottle

Dangerous Disparity: New research Shows Heavy Driniking Risks for Sexual Minority Women

While four drinks in about two hours for women meets the standard definition of binge drinking, new University of Maryland research suggests the practice may be even more intense—and dangerous—for non-heterosexual women.


Bradley Boekeloo, staff member of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland

UMD Prevention Research Center to Focus on LGBTQ Mental Health with new $3.75M from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The University of Maryland Prevention Research Center (UMD-PRC) is working to improve mental health and health care for LGBTQ+ people with new funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).