About Us

General Overview, Mission & Goals

The mission of the LGBTQ+ Health Initiative is to reduce disparities experienced by gender and sexually diverse populations by helping health and human services agencies that are a part of the NYS HHS LGBT Network more effectively reach and serve these groups. LGBTQ+ Health will share best-practice, evidence-based interventions designed to help Network agencies build trust with their clients so clients can gain the full benefit of health care resources available to them. Our objectives are:

We are based out of the University of Rochester and are funded by the NYSDOH AIDS Institute. More information can be found on the NYS HHS Network website.

Guiding Lights

  • Leading and liberating with heart
  • Healing
  • Identifying and abolishing tokenism & antiblackness
  • Being the change we want to experience
  • Iterative process

LGBT HHS Grant Components

The New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute awarded the New York State LGBT HHS grant for a 5-year grant cycle (2019-2024), which is divided into three components:

Provision of Direct Health and Human Services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals, Families and Communities was awarded to 37 organizations around New York State that provide direct service provision to LGBTQ+ communities, including healthcare, housing, legal services, social supports, and more.

Three circles, orange, purple and green, overlap to represent how the components work together.
All of these components overlap and work together.

Multicultural and Culturally Responsive Organizational Development was awarded to the University of Rochester to support the organizations with technical assistance and capacity building in the areas of:

  • leadership development
  • program development
  • coordination
  • health promotion/awareness
  • education

The LGBTQ+ Health Initiative is building off the work of National LGBT Cancer Network, whose mission is to improve the lives of LGBT cancer survivors and those at risk for cancer through Education, Training, and Advocacy. They received the Component B funding in the previous grant cycle (2013-2018) with which they created an expansive Cultural Competency Curriculum that is now open and available to the public.

Statewide Coordination of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Related Organizations Funded through the LGBT Health and Human Services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals, Families and Communities and LGBT Health and Human Services Network Members was awarded to the LGBT Center in Manhattan for the administration of the LGBT Network, including advocating for additional funding to the LGBT community, providing communication services and technical assistance and programmatic support to members, as well as organizing in-person retreats, conferences, and advocacy days.


The first year of our grant ran from May 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020. Our successes of this year included:

  • We created this website!
  • We founded our Community Advisory Board
  • We started creating relationships with equity thought leaders and folks leading equity changes in organizations
  • We worked with a group to create the two surveys that made up our Needs Assessment

The second year of our grant ran from May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Our successes this year included:

  • Community Advisory Board Growth and Input
  • We completed our Needs Assessment, aggregate results and more information is now available.
  • Contracted with Rebellious Root Collective to offer six Technical Assistance Trainings including:
    • How to Create and Sustain Equity Committee Momentum: “These two sessions included information on equity committee best practices and collaborative chats with other organizations who have/are thinking about creating Equity Committees.”
    • Designing Equity Labs: “A 3-part series focused on developing an organizational best practices, policies, and procedures manual to support work towards actualizing equity in our organizations.”
    • Movement Health Workshop: “This workshop was created in response to a high level of burnout reported by Network members, and provided rituals and tools for community- and self-care while doing the powerful work Networks members do.”

The third year of our grant ran from May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022. Our successes this year included:

  • We held the Antiracism Listening and Learning Series twice this year, in Summer 2021 and Winter 2022. Together, a total of 57 participants read and discussed How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. 
  • We worked with Rebellious Root to offer 30 hours of 1-1 Equity Coaching with 17 Network organizations
  • Our Community Advisory Board worked on editing an Equity Guidebook for organizations, and continued to grow and develop as a group (applications are open
  • We offered 5 additional workshops to employees of Network organizations, including:

The fourth year of our grant ran from May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023. Our successes this year included:

  • We received funding to offer services to an additional 24 programs/organizations
  • We sent out the second round of our Organizational Equity Survey and received a total of 92 responses
  • We continued to work with Rebellious Root Collective in Year 4. Our work with them included:
    • How to Create and Sustain Equity Committee Momentum workshop to 34 participants
    • 1-1 equity work with 3 organizations over the course of Spring 2023
    • We worked on editing and reviewing our Equity Guidebook to prepare for release in Year 5
  • We worked with Krystle Ellis to provide a series of workshops on Equitable Policy Writing, including
    • One virtual training in January 2023 with 12 participants
    • Three in-person, full-day workshops in March, which were held in Brooklyn, Westchester, and Syracuse, with a total of 21 participants
  • We held one session of our Antiracism Listening and Learning Series in Fall 2022. Together, 13 participants read and discussed How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
  • We sent leaders from 7 organizations to a conference held by the Winters Group, entitled “Racial Equity at Work Summit” in February 2023. We also worked with Kevin Beckford to offer follow up discussions to folks who attended the Summit on how we can put learning into practice in our organizations.
  • We offered an additional 3 workshops, including: 
    • Qualitative Research Methods to 10 participants
    • Navigating Difficult Conversations to 3 participants
    • Website Accessibility to 28 participants
  • We hired an Administrative Assistant, Shianne Velez!

Meet Our Team

Brooke Levandowski is smiling for the camera.

Brooke A. Levandowski, PhD, MPA (she/her) is the director of the LGBTQ+ Health Initiative. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. An epidemiologist by training, Brooke’s research seeks to improve stigmatized health outcomes through understanding the influence of culture on health decision making, primarily in the field of reproductive and sexual health. The LGBTQ+ Health Initiative is an excellent opportunity to work within our queer community to improve our health!

Susan Miller is smiling for the camera.

Susan B. Rietberg-Miller, BA, (she/they) is the coordinator of the LGBTQ+ Health Initiative. She joined the LGBTQ+ Health Initiative in the beginning of September of 2019, and is beyond excited to be in a role that allows her to work with many amazing members of the LGBTQ+ community in New York State. This is an amazing opportunity to help improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people. In addition to this job, Susan is currently getting a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Rochester, and has a bachelors in Women’s Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies from Colgate University.

Shawn Zhang is smiling for the camera.

Xiaoxuan Zhang, MS (he/him) is a Lead Analyst and Programmer with the Clinical Education Initiative, and provides technical support to the LGBTQ+ Health Initiative. Some of his duties include managing AIRS data entry and reporting, updating the website, and providing customer support for the website.

Our Community Advisory Board

Our CAB is composed of 15+ members of our LGBTQ+ community located all around New York State. The CAB meets about 6 times per year to provide their perspective as stakeholders on surveys and trainings that may be offered to Network organizations. We provide a gift card for participation in the meetings and work between meetings. If you’re a member of our community and interested in joining, please review this document and follow the instructions there. We’ll reach out to you after you have completed a short application.

Our Partners

We work with many partners and consultants from our community who have various skills and expertise to add to the mission of our grant. You can read more about our partners. If you are interested in working with us, please contact us.