Thursday, October 1, 2020

In September, Meghan Romanelli joined our faculty as an assistant professor. Her research interests focus on understanding and addressing the multisystemic factors that lead to mental health disparities among LGBTQ communities, with an emphasis on service access and treatment engagement. She is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 10 years of experience. 

Meghan was a pre- and postdoctoral research fellow at the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University, where she earned her PhD in 2019. She holds a master’s of science in social work from Columbia University and a BA in Psychology from the College of the Holy Cross.

To learn more about Meghan and her decision to join the School faculty, read on. 

What triggered your interest in pursuing social work as a career?

After I graduated from college, I worked for three years in higher education administration. During that time, I was involved in supporting queer and trans students and student groups, but I felt limited in my capacity. I applied to MSW programs to gain the knowledge and skills I needed to affect change within the LGBTQ community. After spending several years as a clinician, I shifted my focus to research. 

What do you see as the most pressing problem facing social workers today?

As social workers, we always have a lot on our plates but this year is particularly challenging. Not only are social workers listening to how their clients are struggling with both COVID-19 and systemic racism but many are coping with the effects themselves. Burnout, anxiety and vicarious trauma are three of our field’s most pressing concerns, and I think we need to focus more attention on the wellbeing of our workforce. 

Do you think your research can make a difference in ensuring health equity and social justice?

Much of my recent research looks at healthcare discrimination among trans care-seekers. I found that the cumulative experiences of healthcare discrimination are associated with increased rates of poor mental health outcomes, including attempted suicide. These discriminatory incidents occur disproportionately among trans people with multiple marginalized identities—for example, trans people of color, and those who are disabled or impacted by poverty. My long-term goal is to use my research findings to develop a tailored engagement intervention that will improve access to, and engagement in, mental health services for queer and trans communities. 

What attracted you to join the faculty at the School of Social Work?

The School has a longstanding reputation for impacting change through innovative research, and its faculty are recognized thought-leaders in mental health disparities. Because I am committed to advancing health equity among marginalized populations, particularly LGBTQ communities, the School’s health equity perspective, paired with the research being done here, is a perfect fit.