An interview with E. Kale Edmiston

Name: E. Kale EdmistonKaleEdmiston

Current Job: Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry

Scientific Discipline/Field: Neuroscience

Country: United States

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): T, B, Q

Website: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ePwHVwsAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao,  https://upmchealthsecurity.academia.edu/KaleEdmiston, and https://www.researchgate.net/profile/E_Kale_Edmiston

What does your job involve?

I do psychiatric neuroimaging research, which for me involves developing and testing hypotheses about how the brain processes visual information in individuals with high anxiety. In the day-to-day, this generally means quite a bit of writing, but also coding, using Matlab, and statistical analysis, as well as sharing my findings with others.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

I was first trained in neuroimaging methodology at the Yale School of Medicine. I completed my PhD in Systems Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University in 2015.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Absolutely. I am interested in psychiatry in large part because of the enormous impact that discrimination has on the mental health of transgender people, who have a disproportionately high incidence of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide attempt. Being transgender has also impacted what types of jobs I will consider, as I need to make sure that I am at a university that will provide comprehensive transgender healthcare benefits for my partner and I, and that I am in a part of the country that is going to be a safe and welcoming environment for my partner and I.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

I think the funniest reaction I had was when I came out to a colleague and they excitedly told me about a study of depressive behavior in an ovariectomized rodent model as a way of relating to me. I will say that my graduate mentor, Dr. Blythe Corbett was and is an amazingly supportive ally to me.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?

For some time, Ben Barres was the only other trans person in my field, at least that I was aware of. I am hoping there will be more and more of us. But Ben is certainly a trailblazer and I am honored to know him. I would also say that I admire my mentors Drs. Hilary Blumberg, Fei Wang, Blythe Corbett, and Mary Phillips. I feel so lucky to benefit from their knowledge and experience.

What are your plans for the future?

I am applying for a K award that will help me transition to faculty. I will be doing more research involving emotional face and novelty processing in individuals at risk for psychiatric disorders. I am also working on developing the first transgender health literacy curriculum, which will emphasize ways that transgender people can advocate for themselves and each other in healthcare settings.

Anything else you’d like to add?

While I was in graduate school, I also co-founded The Trans Buddy Program, which is the first transgender health peer advocacy program. Trans Buddy pairs trained peer advocates with transgender people seeking healthcare. Advocates provide resources and logistical and emotional support for patients during healthcare visits. The experience of being the only out transgender graduate student at my institution for a long time, and one of very few in my field, has really inspired me to serve my community. This is perhaps a little different from the stereotype of the scientist as hiding out in the lab and unengaged with the world, but my work in trans health has made me a better scientist and probably a better person too. https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/lgbti/trans-buddy-program

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