For many LGBTQ people, finding and going to the doctor is a stressful experience. LGBTQ people often search widely for a physician or practice that will be respectful and affirming of their identity. Some avoid or delay seeking care for a health problem because they anticipate that they will be discriminated against or treated poorly in the health care setting. 


In recent work, I'm studying differences in health, behavior, and health information outcomes among LGBTQ people who do and do not have an LGBTQ affirming provider. So far, we have found that having an LGBTQ affirming provide increases knowledge of HIV prevention practices among gay and bisexual men and improves uptake of preventative health screenings, like colorectal cancer screening, among all LGBTQ people.

Access to LGBTQ Affirming Care

TARA  MCKAY

LGBTQ Social Networks

Sleep is a critical protective factor for both physical and mental health outcomes. Too little sleep has been associated with hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even mortality. Multiple studies have also linked sleep quality and quantity with severe mental health outcomes, like suicidality, depression, and bipolar disorder. 


​Recent theoretical work has proposed that minority stress—including exposure to violence, discrimination, and stigma—may negatively affect sleep quality for minority populations. Most of this research has focused on racial minority populations. My research team is expanding this work using multiple population and survey data sets to examine disparities in sleep quality and quantity by sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Biological markers of aging

Sleep as a driver of health disparities

​My research draws from population health, social science, health policy, and medicine to generate new insights on health equity issues affecting diverse communities. Throughout my work, I pinpoint social, policy, and private sector strategies to actively address and alleviate health disparities. I am a co-founder of the Vanderbilt LGBTQ+ Policy Lab, which prioritizes methodological rigor and interdisciplinary collaboration alongside diversity, inclusivity, and social justice in research, training, and policy outreach.

sociologist. EDUCATOR.thought leader.

Major health events, like a new diagnosis or disability, hospitalization, or other serious health issue, can have significant effects on how people spend their time and who they spend it with. Political events, too, can shape who we want to spend time with. 


I'm studying social support structures among LGBTQ people at various stages of life using data from the University of California Berkeley Social Networks Study (UCNets) and the Vanderbilt University Social Networks, Aging, and Policy Study (VUSNAPS).


You can read more about how the 2016 Presidential Election of Donald Trump affected LGBTQ+ adults' social networks here

Traditional approaches to the study of aging usually focus on a single aging-related disease or indicator. Advances in the study of aging provided by geroscience now consider the cross-system process of aging as a common risk factor for the onset and progression of many chronic conditions and morbidities among older adults, focusing on genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms. 


With Lauren Gaydosh at the University of Texas, Austin's Center for Aging and Population Science, VUSNAPS is collecting buccal cell swabs and blood samples to look at cross-system indicators of accelerated aging, cognitive health, and a range of other aging outcomes among LGBTQ+ older adults. 

You can find my university page here, my full CV here, and my publications here


Out of the office, I am a parent to four-year old twins; an enthusiastic if not very speedy cyclist, middle distance runner, and two-time co-captain of the AIDS/LifeCycle Team On Your Left; and a proud Timmermaniac!


​​Below I highlight a few of the research topics I'm excited about lately.