Megan McInnis - India

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Internship location: Chennai, India
Career goal: To help run/manage a woman’s health clinic in an underserved area

Internship summary:
I explored how stigma and gender identity affect and/or are correlated with three major mental health problems (anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder) within the homosexual and transgendered women’s community. I was the primary investigator of this study and hired four field workers to recruit and interview the participants in their native language. I hope to disseminate the results in a manner that will influence future policy decisions in favor of promoting equal rights within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) communities.

Value of experience:
I was challenged as the principle investigator to oversee the training, implementation and progress of the study, and encouraged by my preceptors to solve any and all problems that arose along the way. I was also exposed to a culture that reminded me of my own humanity and taught me to be humble in the face of diversity. During my study I became friends with many of my participants and members of the men-who-have sex-with-men and transgendered communities. People shared their lives with me and put a face on the suffering and injustice I had read so much about. Although India proved to be a tough place to live, I am eternally thankful for everything it taught me.

Best moment:
That’s a hard one. On June 25, I dressed in a sari that a study collaborator and one of the first openly gay and HIV-positive men in India bought for me. Together, along with about 75 other members and supporters of the LGBT community, we marched down the main street of Marina Beach, one of the world’s longest beaches, and demanded basic human rights and acceptance. It was a powerful experience and I will always remember chanting and singing with some of the most motivated people I’ve ever met.