Ning Hsieh: Addressing gaps in LGBTQ+ healthcare

June 3, 2020 - Liz Schondelmayer

Dr. Ning Hsieh, a Michigan State University sociologist, is dedicated to knocking down barriers keeping LGBTQ+ Americans from accessing and receiving quality health care. Through exposing disparities and creating solutions, she plays an instrumental role in creating a better healthcare system for sexual and gender minorities.

Understanding disadvantages to foster healthier communities

Dr. Hsieh joined the Spartan community in 2016 and has since been a campus leader in research surrounding LGBTQ+ physical and mental health. Her work surrounds important issues such as healthcare disadvantages, intersectionality and aging among the LGBTQ+ community, with a particular emphasis on the role of positive social networks and relationships. 

“Due to stigma, many LGBTQ+ adults have less social capital that is vital for maintaining and enhancing health,” says Dr. Hsieh. “This means that their number and quality of social networks is significantly less than their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts.”

Much of this stems from complicated relationships with family, social disapproval of same-sex relationships, as well as stigmatization and isolation from peer groups.

Currently, Dr. Hsieh is working on a study with fellow MSU sociologist Dr. stef shuster on how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting sexual and gender minorities of color in the Greater Lansing area. This study, which has received support from the MSU College of Social Science, is part of a larger project studying barriers for LGBTQ+ people of color within the healthcare system.

Creating change - with a team

Dr. Hsieh serves on the Sexual and Gender Minority Health Consortium - a research center that unites faculty from across the college, university and midwest to study how to improve health and wellbeing for the LGBTQ+ community.

In the consortium, Dr. Hsieh plays an instrumental role in planning the consortium’s direction as far as research topics and content, and also serves on the search committee responsible for hiring an additional researcher in the Sociology department to join the consortium.

Dr. Hsieh’s passion for this research comes from her own experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. “The U.S. healthcare system is notoriously difficult to navigate, and being a queer person makes it even more challenging--culturally, financially, and administratively.” .”

“Having problems accessing culturally sensitive care and financing basic healthcare is a major reason why sexual and gender minorities experience poorer health outcomes than their straight or cisgender peers. A lot of this is due to interpersonal and institutional  discrimination against people of different sexual orientations and gender identities  in our society, including but not limted to the healthcare system. I hope that my research will enhance healthcare practices that address the needs of SGM people. ”

Learn more about Dr. Hsieh’s recent research with Dr. stef shuster here.