Interview: Quantitative, Qualitative or Versatile


This is where we drag leaders in gay men's health into our Proust spotlight. Get to know your colleagues as they share their work, their passion and a little of their busy lives.

Interview with Mark Gilbert

Mark Gilbert, MD, Clinical Prevention Services, BC Centre for Disease Control

1. What is your place of birth?

England – but I came to Canada when I was 6 months old.

2. How did you get involved in gay men's health?

When I started studying public health I was coming out at the same time, so learning about gay men’s health was a way for me to continue my exodus from the closet.  I did a rotation at the BC Centre for Disease Control – where I now work – specifically to learn about gay men’s health, interviewing gay men’s health researchers and leaders in Vancouver.  That’s what got me hooked and I’ve always tried to bring a gay men’s health lens to my work in public health.

3. Quantitative, qualitative or versatile?

Quantitative, but some of my best friends are qualitative.

4. What social determinant of health impacts gay men the most, do you think?

Hands down, stigma related to sexual orientation.  While not everyone necessarily experiences overt discrimination or harassment, we all have to come out and face the possibility of rejection just because we’re gay, and deal with internalized homophobia.  And as Sex Now data shows us, this is not something that necessarily is “getting better” quickly enough.

5. What's something that everyone interested in gay men's health should read?

One of the first things I ever read was “Framing Gay Men’s Health in a Population Health Discourse”, a discussion paper put out by the Gay & Lesbian Health Services of Saskatoon in 2000.  It’s one of the first Canadian reports that I know of to formally articulate a population approach to gay men’s health, and in many ways still relevant today. http://rainbowhealth.ca/documents/english/framing.pdf

6. Do you have a favourite gay bar moment?

Walking into a gay bar in New York realizing that it was full of geeks like me.  (There’s more to the story, but that’s the SFW version).

7. If you could poll 10,000 gay men, what two questions would you ask them?

That’s a terrible scenario – only two questions?   I don’t see a lot of data on how gay men relate to their families, and I think family rejection or acceptance is a pretty important influence on health.  So I would ask: When you were coming out to your family, how did they handle it? How would you describe your relationship to your family now?

8. What is the secret to a perfect relationship?

My partner (but he’s not available, so everyone else will have to just figure it out for themselves).

9. How would you describe your current work?

Other than saying there’s too much of it?  I lead the provincial surveillance program for HIV, STIs, Hepatitis and tuberculosis, and various testing initiatives. I also lead the development of online sexual health programs at BCCDC.  I also do research related to gay men’s health although sadly I don’t get as much time as I would like for this.

10. What's the last piece of writing you did on gay health?

Currently I’m working with my colleague Travis Salway Hottes on a report for the Provincial Health Officer which reviews the current trends in HIV for gay and bisexual men in BC and includes recommendations for renewing HIV prevention.  While specific to HIV we’ve adopted a broader determinants-based approach.  I’m pretty excited about it and it incorporates a lot of different sources of information and input from community and public health stakeholders.  Stay tuned!

11. What gay man do you most admire?

I do have a bit of a hero crush on Michael V. Smith, queer writer and artist extraordinaire. I love his books, and the bravery of his films that I’ve seen at the Queer Film Festival over the years are really amazing.  Plus he’s funny, brilliant, and lovely to boot. 

12. Where would you like to see gay men's health in five years?

I would like to see a more concerted provincial gay men’s health initiative/strategy which has buy-in and support from government and community.  Over the past eight years I’ve been in the field this has been gaining momentum, so fingers crossed.

 

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