Shortly before they accepted the University of Illinois at Chicago ( UIC ) College of Nursing 2018 Distinguished Researcher Award, scholar/researcher Phoenix Matthews noted the irony that she hadn't always wanted to do research.
When they were in school, Matthews recalled in a keynote address at UIC on march 8, they were told by an advisor that a good researcher had the potential to change the world if they asked the right questions. Matthews scoffed, eager to begin clinical work in psychology.
It only took two weeks in a clinical setting for Matthews to change their mind.
"I was too far downstream from the problem," Matthews said, adding that doing research "feels like it connects me with what is so important in life … [which is] taking care of the most vulnerable among us."
Matthews has focused much of their research on smoking, particularly its relationship with health inequalities within the LGBT community. While there has been a marked decrease in the percentage of Americans who smokefrom about 60 percent in the '60s to 18 percent presentlya large percentage of LGBT persons smoke. Matthews cited about 20.6 percent of LGB persons, and 35.5 percent of trans persons as smoking.
Matthews cited a number of contributing factors to those statistics, among them social stigma, community norms, specific targeting of the community by tobacco manufacturers and a lack of specific information directed to LGBT consumers.
Additional research for targeted lung cancer screenings for high-risk persons is also a key aspect of Matthews' current research, they said.
"I look forward to being here the rest of my career," Matthews said. "I love UIC. I love Chicago."