Travis Salway is the newest assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Photo courtesy of Jackie Dives.

New FHS professor aims to reduce health inequities among sexual minorities

September 05, 2019

Travis Salway, the newest assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, is a social worker and epidemiologist who investigates population health inequities from an interdisciplinary perspective.

“FHS is unique in the breadth of researchers housed under one faculty, allowing a creative and productive exchange of ideas across disciplines, methods, and paradigms,” says Salway. “It’s exciting to join a group of faculty, staff, and students who share an appreciation for investigating how social processes create health inequities and what we can do about it.”

Salway’s research focuses on three main areas:

1) Population health inequities in the context of social stigma: Salway uses a broad range of approaches (including epidemiology, qualitative research, and mixed methods) to understand how and why some socially-defined populations (e.g., sexual minority people) experience multiple, co-occurring and avoidable health disparities. Much of this research focuses on mental (e.g., suicide, anxiety) and sexual health outcomes.

2) Social epidemiologic methods in the context of stigma: In addition to causing ill health, social stigma challenges the ways in which we accurately sample and measure stigmatized populations. Therefore, Salway investigates how to characterize and correct for selection and information biases in socially relevant health research.

3) Tailored and equity-informed public health service: One consequence of stigma and stress processes is that socially stigmatized individuals may avoid or delay healthcare, or conceal information during healthcare encounters, and thereby miss opportunities for early/preventive mental healthcare. Salway works with public health and community partners to describe how public health settings (e.g., sexual health clinics) can address unmet healthcare needs of sexual minority clients. This research additionally explores the co-occurrence and interaction of sexual and mental health among sexual health service clients.

Salway’s research has resulted in an improved understanding of patterns and causes of mental health outcomes among sexual minority populations. Earlier this year, he presented this research to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, in the context of their historic study on LGBTQ2 Health in Canada.

His research focused on the ongoing and harmful practices of ‘conversion therapy’, or sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts (SOGICE) in Canada. He found there is a need for more data describing who, when, where, why, and how Canadian youth continue to be exposed to SOGICE. As a result, he is launching a national research project this fall, working with SOGICE survivors to better understand their health-related needs.

Salway has over 18 years of experience working with sexual minority (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer) communities to inform and improve public health interventions. He is the co-founder and facilitator of The Roundtable: BC’s LGBTQ2S Mental Health & Substance Use Networking Space.

His training includes degrees in social work at the University of California at Berkeley (BA, 2002) and epidemiology at McGill University (MSc, 2008) and University of Toronto (PhD, 2017). Most recently, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.

He is also a Michael Smith Scholar (2019-2024) and an Affiliated Researcher/Faculty at the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity, and the Community-Based Research Centre.

Salway is looking forward to learning from his new peers, students and communities that SFU serves. “I hope to develop and nurture those relationships and offer some of my own experiences and teachings in exchange.”