An ETSU assistant professor, Katie Baker, has received a major grant of roughly $10,000 to study attitudes, beliefs and experiences regarding reproductive health among lesbian and bisexual women in northeast Tennessee.

Katie Baker

Baker’s study is looking to build on previous studies that have found lesbian and bisexual women have different experiences with medical care pertaining to reproductive health when compared to heterosexual women.

The study, which plans to interview and survey about 215 lesbian and bisexual women between the ages of 18-25, is divided into two parts.

”The first part of our study is dedicated to in-depth interviews with women who identify as lesbian and bisexual and just allowing them to tell us their history with the reproductive health care system.” Baker said.

The second part of the study will be an online survey that will be given to around 200 women. The questions on the survey will be developed from the answers given by those interviewed.

The grant given to Baker and her team will play a big part in making sure this study is successful. The grant will go towards compensation for study participants, professional transcription of interviews as well as other items that are integral to a successful study.

“It’s a topic that my student team is really passionate about too, and the grant is highly motivating for me and for them,” she said.

The driving force behind this research is actually a series of focus groups done in South Carolina by Baker last year. The 2017 study recruited 191 women of reproductive age and focused on unintended pregnancies.

The study featured several women who identified as lesbian or bisexual, and the responses from those women revealed vastly different experiences with health care than their heterosexual counterparts.

“Their reproductive health experiences are both similar to and different from mine and they deserve to have their stories told just as much as a women whom identifies as heterosexual,” she said.

Next up for Baker and her team is approval for the Institutional Review Board, then comes recruitment of the studies participants before beginning interviews and beginning  development of the survey to be used in the research.

”Our timeline is generally a year, but the way this funding works is it’s funded on a fiscal year calendar,” she said. “So we need to wrap up our study by July 2019.”

And while that is a quick turnaround, Baker isn’t particularly concerned.

“It’s short, but the good thing is I don’t anticipate any problems recruiting for the interviews,” she said. “And once the survey is developed, we’ll be capturing data electronically, meaning everything can come together pretty quickly.”

If all goes well, Baker hopes to take the study to a much broader area of the country.

“For me, I would like for the next step to be examining the issue in the southern United States,” she said.

With any study there lies the possibility you may not find what you’re looking for after collecting all the data. Baker recognizes this, but she also recognizes just how important research like this can be to those who don’t have the privileges afforded to heterosexual women.

“This is the type of work I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “Women’s reproductive health is my passion, so to be able to have a funded research study in this field means a lot to me personally.”