Derek believes in medicine as social justice. Growing up gay in rural Minnesota provided him important, poignant perspective into the struggles of stigmatized populations. Derek struggled with his sexuality in school, in church, at home, and even in his doctor’s office. The community in which he was raised believed that homosexuality was deeply wrong and could be “cured.” Lessons learned from coming out during that time provided Derek with great insight into the multiple, varied issues with which many minorities grapple.
During college, Derek co-chaired the LGBTQ student group, helped establish a GSA at a local high school, and actively fought to remove a Reparative Therapy movement starting on campus. After an internship at District 202, an LGBTQ youth center in Minneapolis, Derek started his career in HIV at the Minnesota AIDS Project. Two years later, he took a position at the Red Door Clinic, Minnesota’s largest HIV/STD clinic, where he provided HIV testing and counseling services. At the clinic, he developed unique online outreach programming, ran a syphilis elimination project called “StopSyphilisNOW” and facilitated several inpatient and outpatient support groups for gay and bi men living with HIV and struggling with addiction.
His work has given him insight into how stigma, mental health, and minority stress contribute to the unique health disparities experienced by LGBTQ people. The powerful role a physician can play inspired Derek to become a doctor – not only an exemplary diagnostician but a compassionate healer for those marginalized by their sexuality or gender. He plans on using his education at University of Washington Medical School to found a public health clinic offering culturally-specific medical and mental health care for the LGBT community.