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Ryan M. Combs, Ph.D.

Ryan Combs imageHealth Promotion and Behavioral Sciences 
Assistant Professor 
485 E. Gray St., Room 210
Phone: 502-852-1995
Fax: 502-852-3294 
Office hours: By appointment



Ryan M. Combs, Ph.D., M.A., joined the Department of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences as an Assistant Professor in July 2015. He returned to Louisville after working for four years as a post-doctoral researcher in the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences at the University of Manchester (UK). Dr. Combs serves on the Faculty Senate, is co-chair of the SPHIS Diversity Committee, and is a member of the UofL LGBTQ Faculty & Staff Association.

Dr. Combs is interested in the impact of health policies and practices on marginalized populations. He has several years of experience conducting community-based participatory research in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders such as community members and groups, patient populations, policymakers, public health professionals, and health care providers. His qualitative work employs inductive, interpretive approaches to data analysis, most often using applied thematic analysis or grounded theory method.

He is a member of the American Public Health Association. He previously served on the Sexuality and Politics Executive Council at the American Political Science Association.

Dr. Combs received his master’s degree in Politics (Governance & Public Policy) and his Ph.D. in Politics (Health Policy) from the University of Manchester. In addition to public health, he has teaching experience in the disciplines of politics, medicine, and gender studies.

Research Interests

Methods: community-based participatory research; qualitative methods; emancipatory research

Topics: health disparities; health literacy; politics and health policy; healthcare delivery systems in the United States and United Kingdom; psychosocial experiences with healthcare; trauma and minority stress; intersectionality.

Populations: marginalized and underrepresented groups, e.g. LGBTQ communities in the US and UK, transgender and nonbinary people, LGBTQ youth, people with disabilities, people of color, and West and South Louisville residents.

Current Projects

  • Gender Identity and Simulation (Various roles) This research examines gender identity portrayal in North American medical school standardized patient programs. 
  • Increasing Pre-exposure Prophylaxis among High-risk African Americans in Louisville, KY (Co-I): This project seeks to increase PrEP availability and use among African Americans residing in West Louisville. Funded by Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.
  • LGBTQ Microaggressions in Healthcare (Various roles): The purpose of this research is to develop an instrument to measure microaggressions towards LGBTQ patients in the healthcare setting.
  • Youth Violence Prevention Research Center (Co-I): YVPRC seeks to influence the social context of youth in Louisville through the implementation of a three-year social norming campaign. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Completed Projects

  • eQuality (Co-I): The eQuality initiative supported the full implementation of LGBT, gender nonconforming, and DSD healthcare competencies into the UofL School of Medicine curriculum.
  • Health Literacy Part I (Co-PI): This study examined the development, use, applicability, and design of health insurance and health systems literacy materials to residents of West and South Louisville. 
  • Health Literacy Part II (Co-PI) We partnered with researchers and practitioners from the University of Kentucky, Kentucky Voices for Health, and Family Health Centers to develop a health insurance literacy training for community health workers, housed on the TRAIN Kentucky website. Funded by KentuckyOne Health.
  • LGBTQ Adolescent Health (PI): This study investigates the health needs of local LGBTQ adolescents. This information will be used to develop a campaign to address LGBTQ adolescent mental health using community-based participatory research. Funded by the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research (CCTSJR) and JustFundKY.
  • LGBT Healthcare Equity & Access Project (PI): This study explored the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) Kentuckians have when enrolling in and using health insurance. Funded by Kentucky Voices for Health.
  • The LGBTQ Community and Policing in Louisville (Co-PI): This survey examined LGBTQ residents’ attitudes and beliefs about, and experiences with, the police. The research was conducted in partnership with Dr. Cynthia Conley (Spalding University) and Dr. Sharon Love (retired). 
  • NCIDM Photovoice: This study used adaptive research methods to determine what people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) want medical students to know about their health and health care. Funded by the National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine.
  • Photovoice: LGBTQ residents of West Louisville reflected on the themes of justice, safety, hope, and racial equity through photography and narrative.
  • Professional Healthcare Chaplaincy Certification: Exploring Efficacy & Strategizing Future Directions (PI): This Center for Health Organization Transformation (CHOT) study explored the strengths, challenges, concerns, and questions of current chaplaincy certification processes and suggested future directions.
  • Using Health Literacy Outreach and Education to Improve Utilization and Health Outcomes in West Louisville (Co-PI): This community-based participatory research project developed and evaluated health communications campaigns on depression, childhood asthma, and HIV. Funded by Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.

Honors & Awards

  • 1st Prize, Health Literacy Research, Research!Louisville (2019)
  • 1st Prize, Greenberg Award for Medical Education Research, Research!Louisville (2019)
  • Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's Foundation Faculty Award - Assistant Professor, Research!Louisville (2017)
  • Attendee, White House Convening on Advancing LGBT Progress in Rural America (2016)
  • Attendee, British Prime Minister’s LGBT Reception at 10 Downing Street in recognition of volunteer consultancy work with the UK Government Equalities Office (2012 & 2013)
  • American Political Science Association Bailey Award (2009)

Journal Articles (*indicates student first author)

1. Combs, R., McAllister, M., Payne, K. Lowndes, J., Devery, S., Webster, A.R., Downes, S.M., Moore, A.T., Ramsden, S., Black, G., Hall, G. (2013) Understanding the impact of genetic testing for inherited retinal dystrophy, European Journal of Human Genetics. 21, 1209–1213. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2013.19

2. Durose, C. Richardson, L., Combs, R., Eason, C. Gains, F. (2013) Acceptable difference: diversity, representation and pathways in UK politics, Parliamentary Affairs, 66(2): 246-267. doi: 10.1093/pa/gss085

3. Eden, M., Payne, K., Combs, R.M., Hall, G., McAllister, M., Black, G.C.M. (2013). Valuing the benefits of genetic testing for Retinitis Pigmentosa: a pilot application of the contingent valuation method. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 97(8): 1051-1056. doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2012-303020

4. Combs, R., Hall, G., Payne, K., Lowndes, J., Devery, S., Downes, S.M., Moore, A.T., Ramsden, S., Black, G.C.M., McAllister, M. (2013). Understanding the expectations of patients with inherited retinal dystrophies. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 97(8): 1057-1061. doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2012-302911

5. Clarke, E., Combs, R., Black, G., Hall, G. (2015) Patient Expectations and Attitudes Towards Specialist Genetic Eye Services. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 24: 349-357. doi: 10.1007/s10897-014-9775-7

6. Knowles, S., Combs, R., Kirk, S., Griffiths, M., Patel, N., Sanders, C. (2016) Hidden caring, hidden carers? Exploring the experience of carers for people with long term conditions, Health and Social Care in the Community, 24(2): 203-213. doi: 10.1111/hsc.12207

7. Sawning, S., Steinbock, S., Croley, R., Combs, R., Shaw, M.A., Ganzel, T. (2017) A First Step in Addressing Medical Education Curriculum Gaps in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender-Related Content: The University of Louisville Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health and Wellness Competency Certificate Program, Education for Health, 30(2): 108-114. doi: 10.4103/efh.EfH_78_16

8. Noonan, E., Sawning, S., Combs, R., Weingartner, L., Martin, L., Jones, V. F., Holthouser, A. (2018) Engaging the Transgender Community to Improve Medical Education and Prioritize Health Care Initiatives. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 30(2): 119-132. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2017.1365718

9. Ali, N.,* Combs, R., Muvuka, B., Ayangeakaa, S. (2018) Addressing Health Literacy Gaps in an Urban African American Population: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Community Health. 43(6):1208-1216. doi:10.1007/s10900-018-0541-x

10. Combs, R., Gonzales, T., Wendel, M. (2018) Considering Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People in Health Communication Campaigns. Palgrave Communications. 4(1):98. doi:10.1057/s41599-018-0155-z

11. Wendel, M., Jackson, T., Ingram, C.M., Golden, T., Castle, B., Ali, N., Combs, R. (2019) Yet We Live, Strive, and Succeed: Using Photovoice to Understand Community Members’ Experiences of Justice, Safety, Hope, and Racial Equity. Collaborations: A Journal of Community-Based Participatory Research and Practice. 2(1):9.

12. Muvuka, B.,* Combs, R., Ali, N. (2020) Depression is Real: Developing a Health Communication Campaign in an Urban African American Community. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action. 14(2):161-172. doi:10.1353/cpr.2020.0029

13. Muvuka, B.,* Combs, R., Ayangeakaa, S., Ali, N., Wendel, M., Jackson, T. (2020) Examining Health Literacy among African Americans: A Narrative Review. Health Literacy Research & Practice. 4(3):e138-e143. doi:10.3928/24748307-20200617-01

14. Ali, N.,* Combs, R., Kakar, R., Muvuka, B., Porter, J. (2020) Promoting interdisciplinary, participatory approaches to address childhood asthma disparities in an urban Black community. Journal of Family & Community Health. doi:10.1097/FCH.0000000000000283

15. Noonan, E., Weingartner, L., Combs, R., Bohnert, C., Shaw, M., Sawning, S. (In Press) Perspectives of Transgender and Genderqueer Standardized Patients in Medical Education. Teaching & Learning in Medicine. doi:10.1080/10401334.2020.1811096.

16. Kerr, J., Ayangeakaa, S., Combs, R., Harris, L., Sears, J., Northington, T., Burton, K., Sterrett-Hong, E., Parker, K., Krigger, K. (2020) Community-Informed Development of a Campaign to Increase HIV Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) Awareness among African American Young Adults. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. doi: 10.1007/s40615-020-00848-x.

17. Bohnert, C., Combs, R., Noonan, E., Weathers, A., Weingartner, L. (2020) Simulation and Gender Identity: Practices and Barriers from a Survey of Medical School Standardized Patient Programs. Simulation in Healthcare. doi: 10.1097/SIH.0000000000000532

18. Kakar, R.,* Combs, R., Ali, N., Muvuka, B., Porter, J. (In Press) Enhancing the Design and Utilization of Asthma Action Plans: Lessons from Community-Based Participatory Research. Patient Education & Counseling.

19. Kerr, J., Combs, R., Ayangeakaa, S., Harris, L., Bullock, N., Sterrett-Hong, E., Parker, K. (In Press) Examining Factors that Impact Intentions to use Pre-exposure prophylaxis among African American Young Adults, Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Book Chapters

Combs, R. (2018) "Health Care Policy," In: The Remarkable Rise of Transgender RightsTaylor, J.K., Lewis, D.C., Haider-Markel, D.P. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Turner, L, Whittle, S., Combs, R.  (2017) "Transphobic Hate Crime in the European Union," In: Hate Crime: Critical Concepts in Criminology. Bean, P., ed. London: Routledge.

Combs, R. (2014) "Key Issues in Transgender Healthcare Policy and Practice," In: Trans Rights and Politics, Taylor, J. and Haider-Markel, D., eds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Combs, R. (2013) "Gender variance: the intersection of understandings held in the medical and social sciences," In Situating Intersectionality, Wilson, A.R., ed. New York: Palgrave.

Research Reports & Other Publications

Jones, A., Combs, R., Buchino, S. (2016) LGBTQ Health Equity & Access Project Final Report, Louisville: Commonwealth Institute.

Combs, R. (2014) Case Study 7: A qualitative study investigating the psychosocial impact of urinary incontinence on people with vascular conditions (PHIEBI), Patient and Public Involvement Case Studies in Primary Care Research, London: NHS National Institute for Health Research.

Knowles, S., Griffiths, M., Combs, R., Kirk, S., Patel, N., Sanders, C. (2014) Case Study 4: The ISiS project: Identifying, Signposting, and Supporting Carers, Patient and Public Involvement Case Studies in Primary Care Research, London: NHS National Institute for Health Research.

Durose, C., Gains, F., Richardson, L., Combs, R., Broome, K., Eason, C. (2011) Pathways to Politics:Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report 65. Manchester: EHRC.

Combs, R., Turner, L., Whittle, S. (2009) The Gender Identity Services in England Mapping Project Report.  London: Department of Health.

Turner, L., Whittle, S., Combs, R. (2009) Transphobic Hate Crime in the EU. Brussels: ILGA-Europe.

Whittle, S., Turner, L., Combs, R., Rhodes, S. (2008) Transgender EuroStudy: Legal Survey and Focus on the Transgender Experience of Health Care. Brussels: ILGA-Europe.

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