/ Key Opinion Leaders / Santa Barbara, CA , --  

    Influencing the public and gaining their respect is something that few have achieved in history, so when they do, it is a big deal for both that person and the community itself. For the scientific and LGBTQIA+ communities, the impact of 8 particular professionals' contributions is helping to promote diversity more than ever before. From doctors to researchers, these professionals have made the Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) list due to their reputations, skills, achievements, and dedication to their fields – they have now gained the expert status they rightfully deserve.

    To help keep everyone knowledgeable about who to watch out for, listen to, and support, this list of thought leaders will disclose everything you need to know. These are the 8 KOLs making the biggest impact internationally.

    Scott Keeney

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    Scott Keeney (@Spo11Rulz) is the first KOL on our list. The molecular biologist scientist studies genetic recombination during meiosis using yeast and mice. Keeney's influence is far-reaching and inspires many in the LGBTQIA+ community to consider similar careers. Coming into this industry in 1997 as a gay scientist, and despite having only met straight scientists, Keeney came out in his senior year of college after taking some time. This was during the height of the AIDS epidemic, but choosing Berkeley as his grad school gave him an enlightening experience that enabled him to feel and be himself. However, as he went to an area where not many people were familiar with LGBTQ and most scientists were straight or not out, there were many situations that made it difficult to be a gay scientist, like not having Domestic Partnerships Benefits.

    Before securing his first role at MSK, in the job interview, Keeney asked about Domestic Partner Benefits, and many, including Keeney, feel that this was the pebble that started the landslide to making positive changes that make people feel comfortable being themselves in this field. It took a few years for Domestic Partner Benefits to come on board, but it was added shortly after the president of MSK was asked again at a conference by Keeney. The difference having benefits like this can make others feel comfortable being themselves must be recognized.

    Plus, when combined with his published findings and work, this all details just why it makes him a great Key Opinion Leader, influencing several concepts. He has a direct impact on the following concepts on top of Meiotic Recombination:

    • Mouse Meiosis
    • DSB Formation
    • DNA Double-Strand Breaks
    • Saccharomyces Cerevisiae
    • Homologous Chromosomes
    • Pirna Biogenesis

    Lisa N. Diamond

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    Lisa N. Diamond is an American psychologist and feminist. Diamond decided to make the focus of her career and research on same-sex sexuality after she came out as a lesbian. She focuses on sexual orientation development, several identity, and bonding. Diamond received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the APA committee, and her book, Sexual Fluidity, has received several awards. Diamond is one of the key opinion leaders (KOLs) attending this year's LGBTQ Health Conference.

    Kat Hadjantonakis

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    Kat Hadjantonakis is a development biologist and a member of the Developmental Biology Program at SKI, having graduated from the Imperial College in London. Hadjantonakis has made it public that they don't like labels, but this is what is making them a rising name in the scientific field and within the KOLs list. Hadjantonakis is a scientist and wants to be known as that, not wanting to claim a particular identity in a time where gender categories are blurring. They are not concerned about the people they work with knowing their sexual orientation, believing that science is the most important thing.

    The more senior Hadjantonakis has become, the less concerned they have become about whether people know of their sexual orientation. However, they have publically spoken about what it was like when they first started work as a postdoc in Canada. Hadjantonakis said they worked in an extremely difficult environment, where homophobic and sexist comments and jokes were made, and despite complaining, nothing changed. This led them to change jobs countless times. In an interview, Hadjantonakis said, "you shouldn't be concerned about being judged for other reasons, but if you feel you are, then you should take action." Being named as one of the KOLs could encourage more people to feel confident in complaining to make changes in their workplace or find a place that accepts them. Certain labs have changed as people can change too, and so if Hadjantonakis can inspire others to feel unafraid to voice their opinions on not wanting to be judged, it enables as many people to become a scientist and one day make the KOLs list themselves.

    Stefanie Elisabeth Windner

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    As an expert in cofilin loss, Stefanie Elisabeth Windner is quickly becoming one of the top Key Opinion Leaders in this field. Having voiced that being a queer person in the scientific community is isolating compared to being a white, heteronormative person, Windner emphasizes themselves as a queer scientist more than ever to create space for more queer scientists to break through into this industry. Windner picked her lab (Mary Baylies at SKI) carefully, knowing exactly the type of people they wanted to work with, as New York City was already a diverse place to be, and MSK does a good job of fostering diversity too.

    Windner is keen to promote LGBTQ, make it more visible in science, and ensure that young people do not give up on the idea of a scientific or research-based career because of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, they know that having a love for science is not enough for people to continue with this path, meaning that change has to occur so that more workplaces are like MSK. Windner is working to make this a reality, and becoming one of the front-running KOLs makes them a person that people can identify with.

    Kelly Chacon

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    Kelly Chacon (@Kelly_N_Chacon) has worked hard to become an innovator in bioinorganic spectroscopy  and has received the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Program award – one of the most prestigious awards, according to the NSF. Part of the funding they won is going towards an annual 2-day symposium that brings together graduate students from all backgrounds, including LCBTQIA+ students. This space enables students to share their experiences and science, and as a Key Opinion Leader could go on to make an even bigger impact on more aspiring students.

    Raul Navarro

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    Raul Navarro is currently an assistant professor at the Occidental College, having graduated in 2014 with their PhD from the California Institute of Technology. Navarro identifies as LGBTQ and when they first started at Caltech had to learn to navigate the balance of feeling the need to compartmentalize their personal life and scientific life. However, they quickly realized that parts of himself influenced their scientific work – Navorro said he couldn't "navigate being a scientist without being someone who identifies as being queer." Working with vocal support in the form of Sarah Reisman, Navarro has become a mentor himself and a representation to so many other LGBTQIA+ students and has now made it onto the KOLs top 8 record.

    Carolyn Ruth Bertozzi

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    Carolyn Ruth Bertozzi (@CarolynBertozzi) has long been an advocate for diversity and a highly admired scientist, having come out in the late 1980s. Bertozzi is admired by many due to coming out during a time when it could have destroyed her career. The biochemist's work sees her trying to bridge the gap between chemistry and biology, focusing mainly on glycoscience.  Bertozzi is proud to be a gay woman and a scientist and is now recognized as one of the best Key Opinion Leaders.

    Jane Rigby

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    Jane Rigby (@janerrigby) has been named the LGBTQIA+ Scientist of the Year, which was initiated by Out to Innovate after they made outstanding contributions for their work developing new techniques in galaxy evolution. Rigby has published 100s of publications, appeared in public presentations and has also been recognized for research, mentorship, and diversity-related work, which helps to make it a better work environment for new and upcoming LGBTQ scientists and doctors.

    The elite 8 KOLs have all made this list for a reason: they are experts in their chosen field. They have worked hard to gain the trust of their peers and are deserving of this leadership status. Plus, they are making a lasting impact on scientific and LGBTQIA+ individuals, whether by giving them the confidence to be themselves, speak up, find a workplace where they can identify with people, and be proud of who they are.

    Related event: 40th Glma Annual Conference On LGBTQ Health

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