Our Team

  • Del Ray Zimmerman

    Director, Program for LGBTQ Health & Office for Diversity Affairs

    pronouns: he/him/his

    In July 2019, Del Ray Zimmerman was named Director, Program for LGBTQ Health and Office for Diversity Affairs. Zimmerman performs all senior administrative duties for the LGBTQ Health division and oversees several major projects for the Office for Diversity Affairs. Zimmerman manages the operations functions of the LGBTQ Health Program, acting as the program's internal (VUMC/VUSM) and external representative, and supervising his staff. He is the main point of contact for most LGBTQ Health Program issues. Zimmerman served as Program Manager for LGBTQ Health since 2016. His background includes over 20 years of experience in non-profit management. Much of that experience was gained with local Nashville LGBT-focused organizations including: Nashville Cares, GLSEN, and OutCentral Cultural Center. Del Ray received his B.S. in Communications from University of Tennessee Knoxville and is originally from Winchester, Tennessee.

  • Shayne Sebold Taylor, M.D.

    VUMC Clinic for Transgender Health

    pronouns: she/her/hers

    Shayne Sebold Taylor, MD, is a physician at the VUMC Clinic for Transgender Health. Dr. Taylor is originally from Tucson, AZ. Her undergraduate studies at Emory University in Atlanta were in the areas of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Biology. In 2014, she received her MD degree from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Dr. Taylor performed her medical residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in the division of General Internal Medicine and Public Health at VUMC. In addition to her specialization in Internal Medicine, she has expertise in the areas of General LGBT Health and Adolescent LGBT Health. She has contributed to several published articles, including "The Gender Non-Conforming Child" and "The Gender Non-Conforming Child Version 2.0" as well as "Electronic Health Records and Preparedness: Lessons from Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey" with past Program for LGBTQ Health Director, Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH.

  • Lea K. Davis, Ph.D.

    LGBTQ Health Research Faculty

    pronouns: she/her/hers

    Lea K. Davis, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Genetic Medicine/Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. During the past fifteen years, Dr. Davis has researched complex behavioral phenotypes and earned degrees in both psychology (BS) and human genetics (PhD). As a postdoctoral fellow, she trained with Dr. Nancy Cox at the University of Chicago where she mastered statistical and computational approaches to large complex data sets. As a postdoctoral fellow, then as a research assistant professor funded by a KL2 career development award at the University of Chicago, she organized and lead several multi-center analytic efforts on behalf of three neuropsychiatric consortia in TS, OCD, and ASD. Her findings are informing subsequent polygenic analyses, pathway analyses, and rare variant analyses and have significantly impacted the field.

    When she is not working, Dr. Davis enjoys cooking, knitting, hiking, yoga, and, most importantly, advocating on issues of social justice including LGBTQ health disparities.

  • Gilbert Gonzales, Ph.D., M.H.A.

    LGBTQ Health Research Faculty

    pronouns: he/him/his

    Gilbert Gonzales, PhD, MHA, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Health & Society, the Department of Health Policy, and the Program for Public Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University. Professor Gonzales’ research examines how public policies affect health outcomes, access to care, and health disparities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations. He also studies the role of health care reforms on vulnerable populations. His research has appeared in the American Journal of Public Health, Pediatrics, JAMA, Health Affairs, The Milbank Quarterly, and the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Professor Gonzales’ research has been covered by news outlets such as CNN, Reuters, New York Post, The Guardian, and U.S. News and World Report. He has also presented his research on LGBT health at national and international research conferences in the United States, Mexico, Belgium, Portugal, and Italy. He is a member of AcademyHealth, the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Population Association of America (PAA), and the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM).

    Professor Gonzales teaches courses in health policy and research methods to undergraduate students at Vanderbilt. He also mentors undergraduate, graduate, and medical students interested in health equity research. In 2016, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Research on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for his research on LGBT health at Vanderbilt University.

    Professor Gonzales completed his Ph.D. in Health Policy & Administration at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, a Master of Health Administration from the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Biology from Baylor University.

  • Tara McKay, Ph.D.

    LGBTQ Health Research Faculty

    pronouns: she/her/hers

    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).

    Dr. McKay received her BA in Psychology from Occidental College and her MA and PhD 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.

    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.

    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.

  • pronouns: they/them/theirs

    Shawn Reilly, M.Ed. graduated in 2019 with an M.Ed. in Learning and Design from Peabody College, and is a current M.Div. candidate studying prison and carceral studies, and interreligious encounter at the Vanderbilt Divinity School. As an undergraduate, Reilly was instrumental in a successful campaign to gain gender inclusive restrooms and housing to support transgender and gender expansive students on campus. They formerly served as the Vanderbilt Office of LGBTQI Life's first student spring break program coordinator, and for two years as a senior mentor with the Oasis Center's Just Us program for LGBTQI youth. Currently, Reilly is the program coordinator for the Trans Buddy program at the Program for LGBTQ Health at Vanderbilt. In this position, Reilly works to train and coordinate peer advocates for transgender patients throughout the hospital. In this role, Reilly also builds and facilitates trainings concerning LGBTQI health, especially in relation to LGBTQI youth, trauma-informed care, legislative advocacy, and K-12 education.

    Reilly is involved with a number of local organizations, and serves as the Student Engagement and Leadership Chair of GLSEN Tennessee, working with Gender & Sexuality Alliances across Tennessee to build inclusive and responsive schools for LGBTQI students. Reilly coordinates the GLSEN Tennessee SHINE team, which consists of LGBTQI high school youth working to shift the landscape for LGBTQI students in Tennessee. They are a youth advisory board member for Youth+Tech+Health, an initiative of ETR working in partnership with youth to develop technological solutions to health disparities. Reilly is a founding member of the TN Department of Health Transgender HIV Task Force, which develops resources for HIV/AIDS prevention and education for transgender people in the state. They serve on the board of the Nashville Peace and Justice Center, and is a proud long-time volunteer with Worker’s Dignity/Dignidad Obrera. They have been awarded numerous honors, including the Humanity in Action fellowship, the Davis-Putter Award, the Nashville Pride Rising Star Award, and the Posse scholarship during their undergraduate career.

  • Keanan Gottlieb

    Research Analyst, Program for LGBTQ Health

    pronouns: he/him/his

    Keanan Gottlieb is a 2017 graduate from Pitzer College where he studied Public Health with an emphasis on gender and disparities. 

    During the summers of 2015 and 2016, Keanan served as an intern for our program, where he contributed to the Trans Buddy patient navigator initiative, as well as research focused on identifying transgender patients in electronic health records.

    Keanan's professional interests include transgender health and emergency medicine. Currently he is working on studies concerning dental health for LGBTQ patients, transgender people’s involvement in biomedical research, and ethics in LGBTQ health research.

    When not at work, he enjoys learning how to play bagpipes and scuba diving.


  • Pepper Heifner

    Associate Program Manager, Program for LGBTQ Health

    pronouns: they/ them/theirs

    Pepper J. Heifner joined the Program for LGBTQ Health as the Associate Program Manager in December 2019. Pepper is a 2019 graduate and University Honors Scholar from East Tennessee State University. They have a B.A. in Women’s Studies and have twice presented their research at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Conference. They enjoy studying LGBTQ history, mental health, and media representation. 

    Outside of work, Pepper enjoys exploring how art can be used to tell LGBTQ stories. They also make some art of their own.  



  • Meredith Cox

    Spiritual Care Provider, Program for LGBTQ Health

    pronouns: they/them/theirs 

    Rev. Meredith Cox, M.Div., graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2018 with an emphasis in Theology, Women, and Gender as well as Theology, Ecology, and Faith Formation. They were ordained in 2019 to Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and was the second out transgender person to be ordained in the denomination’s history. Meredith has led many communities of faith through trainings and conversations about LGBTQ inclusion and continues to live out this passion as a regular preacher and teacher in the greater Nashville area. Meredith has previously worked as a chaplain in pediatrics, adult care, hospice, and behavioral health settings. Their goal in their role now is to offer compassionate, spiritual companionship for LGBTQ folks seeking medical care. Originally from Roswell, GA, Meredith enjoys hiking, reading, and puzzling. Meredith is also a proud member of the award-winning Metro Nashville Chorus, bringing barbershop to the international stage. 

  • * Jesse Ehrenfeld, M.D., M.P.H.

    Founding Director
    Program for LGBTQ Health

    pronouns: he/him/his

    Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, is a founding Director of the VUMC Program for LGBTQ Health. Effective September 1, 2019, Ehrenfeld assumed the position of Director of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin (AHW) Endowment and senior associate dean at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) School of Medicine. Since 2014, he has served as the Chair of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees.

    Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, is a professor of anesthesiology, surgery, biomedical informatics, and health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He is the Secretary of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. Dr. Ehrenfeld divides his time among clinical practice, teaching and research. He serves as associate director of the Vanderbilt Anesthesiology & Perioperative Informatics Research Division, a multi-disciplinary group of physicians, engineers, developers, analysts and researchers who develop systems to improve anesthetic and surgical outcomes. Dr. Ehrenfeld also has an appointment as an adjunct professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD.

    Dr. Ehrenfeld’s research, which focuses on understanding how information technology can improve surgical safety and patient outcomes, has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation, and Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research. His work has led to the presentation of more than 200 abstracts, as well as the publication of more than 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Systems and has co-authored 15 clinical textbooks. He was a 2016 Emmy Nominee.

    Born in Wilmington, Del., Dr. Ehrenfeld is a graduate of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health. He completed an internship in internal medicine, a residency in anesthesiology and an informatics fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital. A combat veteran who deployed to Afghanistan during both Operation Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support Mission, Dr. Ehrenfeld continues to serve as a commander in the United States Navy Reserve. He lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his husband, Judd Taback.

  • * Kristen Eckstrand, M.D., Ph.D.

    Founding Co-Director

    Kristen Eckstrand, MD, PhD is a co-Founder and past co-Director of the Program for LGBTQ Health at Vanderbilt. After receiving her dual degree from Vanderbilt, Kristen pursued her residency program in Psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Medical Education.

    Kristen L. Eckstrand holds her MD and a PhD in neuroscience from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Throughout her career, Dr. Eckstrand has advocated for the needs of LGBT individuals. Dr. Eckstrand has been working on LGBT medical education since 2008 when she initiated curriculum reform at Vanderbilt, which culminated in the foundation of the Vanderbilt Program for LGBTQ Health in 2012--the second program in the country housed within an academic medical center.

    Dr. Eckstrand is nationally recognized for her work as the founding chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Advisory Committee on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Sex Development, co-editing and authoring the ground-breaking text Implementing Curricular and Institutional Climate Changes to Improve Health Care for Individuals Who Are LGBT, Gender Nonconforming, or Born with DSD: A Resource for Medical Educators. She also serves as the Vice President of Education for the board of directors of GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality and as a member of the American Medical Association’s LGBT Advisory Committee.  She has over 50 peer-reviewed publications and presentations related to LGBT health and education, and has been recognized for her commitment to diversity through numerous awards including the 2011 Vanderbilt Levi Watkins Jr. Award, the 2013 American Medical Association’s Foundation in Excellence Leadership Award, the 2013 AMSA/GLMA Health Achievement Award for leadership in LGBT health.

  • * Kale Edmiston, Ph.D.

    Past Co-Director

    After receiving his PhD in Neuroscience from Vanderbilt University in Fall 2015, Kale accepted a postdoctoral scholarship in Dr. Fei Wang's lab at China Medical University in Shenyang, where he is using network-based neuroimaging techniques to study first-episode psychosis.

    Kale Edmiston is a PhD in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, where he studies the neuroendocrine system, stress, and social behavior. As part of his dissertation work, he has helped run a musical theatre camp for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Kale is the first out transgender graduate student at Vanderbilt University and in 2014 was elected president of the Neuroscience Student Organization.

    Kale has a longstanding interest in improving health care access for transgender people. He has provided transgender health care trainings to providers across the country since 2004. He is also active in a number of organizing projects related to primary care access for transgender people as part of The Program for lgbtq Health. Kale was a plenary speaker at the 2013 Gay and Lesbian Medical Association Annual Meeting, where he spoke about his role in improving transgender patient care as part of lgbtq health program at VUMC.

  • * Lauren Beach, J.D., Ph.D.

    Former Director of LGBTQ Research

    In July 2017, Lauren began an appointment as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Northwestern University-The Feinberg School of Medicine.

    In July 2015, Lauren B. Beach, JD/PhD began an appointment as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Vanderbilt University in the research group of Dr. Kerri Cavanaugh. An alumna of the University of Minnesota's Joint Degree Program in Law, Science and Technology, Lauren completed her Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology & Genetics.

    While developing her academic career, Lauren has also dedicated herself to progressive student and community leadership, with an emphasis on serving and advocating for LGBTQIA and bisexual communities. As an undergraduate at Michigan State University, Lauren held multiple student leadership roles dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion on campus, including serving as President of the Alliance of LGBTQA Students and working as a student diversity programming employee at MSU's Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives. Upon her arrival to Minnesota, Lauren not only continued her work with LGBTQIA student groups, but also expanded into serving the community at large. From 2010-2013, Lauren led the 501(c)(3) organization Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP) as Chairperson, transforming it from a largely Twin Cities focused organization into a regionally, nationally and internationally recognized non-profit. From 2009-2014, Lauren also served as a core organizer of BOP's annual BECAUSE Conference on bisexuality. Additionally, Lauren has served on the boards of the 501(c)(3) organizations the Queer Student Cultural Center, the Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance, China AIDS Orphan Fund and currently serves on the board of the Zambian child health non-profit Healthy Kids: Brighter Future. 

  • * Rj Robles, M.Div

    Past Trans Buddy Coordinator

    Rj Robles is a queer and transgender Latinx activist and member of Southerners on New Ground seeking to continue the strong legacy of trans people of color organizing in the South. They hold a BA in Gender & Women Studies and Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as a Master of Divinity (M.Div) from Vanderbilt Divinity School, where their focus was on the intersections of transgender theology and pastoral care and counseling. From 2016-2018, they served as the coordinator of the Trans Buddy Program, which utilizes trained volunteers to provide emotional support to transgender patients at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They now work at the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter as a Bilingual Case Manager helping Latina women survivors of domestic violence. They are also actively in the process of ordained ministry through the Tennessee Disciples of Christ church.