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Ryan M. Combs, Ph.D.

Ryan CombsHealth Promotion and Behavioral Sciences 
Associate 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 2015 after working for four years as a post-doctoral researcher in the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences at the University of Manchester (UK). He was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure on July 1, 2022. Dr. Combs currently serves on the Faculty Senate and is the chair 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 qualitative and 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 constructivist 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. He is also very active in the community, serving on the Louisville Metro Public Health & Wellness Medical Reserve Corps and having served on the boards of the Fairness Education Fund (co-chair), Louisville Youth Group (vice president), and Evolve502. 

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. He also has a graduate certificate in health professions education. 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 - groups that have experienced historical marginalization and underrepresentation, including 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.


  • Graduate (Ph.D.)             PHPB 710           Social Justice and Health Equity Research                    
  • Graduate (Ph.D.)             PHPB 750           Ph.D. Seminar                                                                 
  • Graduate (Ph.D.)             PHPB 711           Qualitative Research                                                       
  • Graduate (MPH)              PHPB 650           LGBTQ+ Health                                                               
  • Graduate (MPH)              PHPB 612           Health Communications Campaigns    

Honors & Awards

Research Awards

  • 2022 - Teaching & Learning in Medicine Editors’ Choice Award, for “Perspectives of Transgender and Genderqueer Standardized Patients in Medical Education” (Noonan et al.)
  • 2021/22 - Society for Simulation in Healthcare Article of Influence, for “Gender Minorities in Simulation: A Mixed Methods Study of Medical School Standardized Patient Programs in the U.S. and Canada” (Bohnert et al.)
  • 2009 - American Political Science Association Bailey Award for exceptional LGBTQ+ paper, for “Gender Mainstreaming in the European Union: Not for All? The EU's Role in Healthcare Provision for Trans People” (Combs)  

University Awards

  • 2021, 22 - University of Louisville Faculty Favorite Nominee  
  • 2021, 22 - University of Louisville Student Champion         

Community Awards

  • 2021, 22 - Louisville Business First Forty Under 40 Nominee
  • 2020 - Commissioned a Kentucky Colonel, the Commonwealth’s Highest Title of Honor
  • 2016 - Attendee, White House Convening on Advancing LGBT Progress in Rural America
  • 2012, 13 - Guest, 10 Downing Street (British Prime Minister’s Residence) LGBT reception   

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. doi:10.33596/coll.23

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. HealthLiteracy Research & Practice,4(3): e138-e143. doi:10.3928/24748307-20200617-01

14. Noonan, E., Weingartner, L., Combs, R., Bohnert, C., Shaw, M., & Sawning, S. (2020). Perspectives of Transgender and Genderqueer Standardized Patients in Medical Education. Teaching & Learning in Medicine, 33(2):1-13. doi:10.1080/10401334.2020.1811096

15. 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, ePub ahead of print. doi: 10.1007/s40615-020-00848-x

16. Bohnert, C., Combs, R., Noonan, E., Weathers, A., & Weingartner, L. (2020). Gender Minorities in Simulation: A Mixed Methods Study of Medical School Standardized Patient Programs in the U.S. and Canada. Simulation in Healthcare, ePub ahead of print. doi: 10.1097/SIH.0000000000000532

17. Ali, N.,* Combs, R., Kakar, R., Muvuka, B., & Porter, J. (2021). Promoting interdisciplinary, participatory approaches to address childhood asthma disparities in an urban Black community. Journal of Family & Community Health,44(1): 32-42. doi:10.1097/FCH.0000000000000283

18. Kakar, R.,* Combs, R., Ali, N., Muvuka, B., & Porter, J. (2021). Enhancing the design and utilization of asthma action plans through community-based participatory research in an urban African American community. Patient Education & Counseling, 104(2):275-281.doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2020.08.032

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

20. Kakar, R.,* Combs, R., Hoepf, M., Ali, N., & Muvuka, B. (In Press). Health insurance literacy perceptions and needs of a working-class community. Health Literacy Research & Practice

21. White, K.,* Combs, R., & Decker, H. (In Press). Board Certification of Professional Chaplains: A Qualitative Study of Stakeholder Perspectives. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, doi:10.1080/08854726.2021.1916334

22. White, K.,* Combs, R., Decker, H., Schmidt, B. (2021). Gender-Based Perspectives on Professional Healthcare Chaplaincy Board Certification. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 00(0):1-19. doi:10.1111/jssr.12752

23. Wendel, M., Jones, G., Nation, M., Howard, T., Jackson, T., Brown, A., Williams, M., Ford, N., & Combs, R. (2022). “Their help is not helping”: Policing as a Tool of Structural Violence against Black Communities. Psychology of Violence. doi: 10.1037/vio0000411

24. Kerr, J., Bullock, N.A., Burton, K., Mitchell, C., Harris, L., Combs, R., Krigger, K., & Northington, T. (2022). Predictors of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis Awareness Among African American Young Adults in Louisville, Kentucky. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. doi: 10.1353/hpu.2022.0121

25. Decker, H.,* Combs, R. Noonan, E., Black, C., & Weingartner, L.A. (2022). LGBTQ+ Microaggressions in Health Care: Piloting an Observation Framework in a Standardized Patient Assessment. Journal of Homosexuality. doi: 10.1080/00918369.2022.2122367

26. Ayangeakaa, S., Kerr, J., Combs, R., Harris, L., Sears, J., Parker, E., & Sterrett-Hong, E. (2022). Understanding Influences on Intention to Use Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Among African American Young Adults. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. doi: 10.1007/s40615-022-01278-7

27. Kerr, J., Ayangeakaa, S., Bullock, N.A., Burton, K., Combs, R., Harris, L., Sterrett-Hong, E., Rozema, I., Sears, J., & Northington, T. (2022). A Qualitative Exploration of Various Stigmas Impacting HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Uptake Among African American Young Adults. Family and Community Health. doi: 10.1097/FCH.0000000000000346

28. Weingartner, L.A., Combs, R.M., Bohnert, C.A., Decker, H., & Noonan, E.J. (2022) Epistemic Peerhood as a Model to Improve Gender-Affirming Care in Medical Education. Teaching and Learning in Medicine. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2022.2137169

29. Naifeh, M.M., Stevenson, M.D., Abramson, E.L., Aston, C.E., Combs, R.M., Decker, H.R., Li, S.T. (2023) The Early Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Pediatric Resident Education: A National Assessment. Academic Pediatrics. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2022.11.003

30. Ayangeakaa, S.D., Kerr, J. Combs, R.M. Harris, L.M., Sears, J. Kimberly Parker, K., Sterrett-Hong, E. (2023). Sociocultural and Structural Influences on HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Engagement and Uptake among African American Young Adults. BMC Public Health23(1427). doi: 10.1186/s12889-023-16273-8

31. Combs, R., Decker, H., Noonan, E., Weingartner, L., Bohnert, L. (2023) Gender Minority Portrayal in Patient Simulation: Transgender and Non-binary Healthcare Providers Consider the Priorities and Ethics of Practice. International Journal of Healthcare Simulation: Advances in Theory & Practice. doi: 10.54531/zsan7948

32. Sterrett-Hong, E., Smith, A., Bullock, N.A., Combs, R., Krigger, K., Kerr, J. (2023) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and PrEP Intentions among Black American Young Adults at High-Risk for HIV. Ethnicity & Health. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2023.2259639.

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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