Tara McKay, Ph.D., is a sociologist and assistant professor of Medicine, Health, and Society, with a secondary appointment in Health Policy. She is an Associate Director of the Vanderbilt LGBT Policy Lab and is Principal Investigator of the Vanderbilt University Social Networks, Aging, and Policy Study (VUSNAPS) funded by the National Institute on Aging (R01).
Her research examines the social and policy contexts that shape health among sexual and gender minority populations in the US and African contexts. Her contributions in this area highlight the effects of LGBT targeted policies, like legal access to same-sex marriage and global HIV/AIDS policy, and untargeted policies, like the Affordable Care Act, on LGBT population health, access to care, and social movement organizing. Dr. McKay also has several past and ongoing studies examining sexual and gender minority populations, communities, and politics in a subset of African countries where same-sex sex has been criminalized or highly politicized. These studies aim to better understand the drivers of regressive policies targeting LGBT populations in some African countries. Dr. McKay has additional work that engages with key theoretical insights in her home discipline of sociology that critically re-examine issues that are often narrowly conceived at the individual-level, such as decisions to participate in a clinical trial for substance use treatment, substance use behaviors among young gay men, and patterns of HIV-disclosure to sexual partners, with a sociological lens.
Dr. McKay received her B.A. in Psychology from Occidental College and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before joining Vanderbilt, Dr. McKay was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco.
Earlier in her career, Dr. McKay contributed to several NIH-funded studies on HIV disparities and care and treatment interventions for men who have sex with men in the US and Malawi with interdisciplinary teams of investigators at Rand, Inc., AIDS Project Los Angeles, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Pennsylvania, and Boston Children’s Hospital.