Erin Riley joined the SexLab team in late October 2015 as a Project Manager. Erin is primarily working on our pioneering Project Nexus, as well as a scoping review on transgender health and an innovative research paper investigating how age, race and location influence knowledge of HIV. Erin joins us with a wealth of experience that includes National Public Radio (NPR) and international public health NGOs.
While earning her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Journalism at the University of Missouri, Erin began working for NPR as a reporter and then senior editor. Erin’s journey towards public health began in China while accompanying a reporter to cover an access to health initiative and visit a new healthcare facility two hours south of Beijing. Here she witnessed a shanty block only 500ft from the facility with women being taken to backstreet clinics for forced abortions. Erin tells me she realized, “journalism wasn’t enough and I wanted to do more than write a story – I wanted to make an impact.” From this point Erin expanded her knowledge of public health and began researching women’s health, reproductive health, sexual health and HIV/AIDS. She went on to work with public health NGOs in Central and South America on projects involving underserved indigenous populations, MSM and LGBTQ communities focusing on emergency contraceptive work and sexual health education. Erin explains that she enjoyed working in the mountainous Guatemala where she was researching the openness of indigenous populations to use contraception in a male-dominated society where young girls can become pregnant and be married into a life of child birth. Following this experience filled with an abundance of challenges and rewards, Erin went on to earn her master’s degree in public health from Creighton University in 2015.
I asked Erin how she felt about her experience at SexLab so far: “There are an incredible amount of resources and opportunities. It’s a unique team and everyone has an interesting and varied background. There is always someone with the skills and experience to support you.” She went on to tell me that in Central America she would have to purchase supplies for studies and teach colleagues qualitative methods, among others, which was a great and contrasting learning experience. Furthermore, “the SexLab team have been incredibly welcoming, it’s such a collaborative and dynamic environment with a real collective ethos and you very quickly become part of the team.”
Erin has joined the team to work on Project Nexus. This innovative project concentrates on couples and combines at home HIV testing for male couples with remote counselling and will focus on a diverse and high risk population. She will be providing counseling to male couples in relation to at home HIV testing and will be undertaking data collection and data analysis, all of which will be underway very soon. So far, Erin has been collaborating on the website development and writing content as well as the administration and development of the project. Erin describes the counselling as a contrast to her interviewing skills with NPR because of the specific guidance, structure and criteria this style will certainly be in sharp contrast to some of her past interviews.
As the discussion moves around these interesting topics of working for international NGOs as well as journalism, Erin tells me about how excited she is to join SexLab. Her first public health intervention in Guatemala was with indigenous MSM which was her first interaction with HIV/AIDS and addressing the health disparities of underserved populations began this experience and trajectory of closing disparities. “SexLab is all about focusing on these underserved populations and informing larger society that there is a disparity and it does need to be addressed.”
In the future, Erin wants to focus her research on women’s sexual health, preventative measures and empowerment of Latina women. She is considering a Ph.D. and possibly working in Europe or South America as she says, “Even though I’ve had these international experiences, I want to continue and my ultimate goal is to perpetuate and empower underserved populations to have access to healthcare and better sexual health knowledge.” Erin, welcome to SexLab. You’re in the right place.