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Ryan M. Combs, Ph.D.


Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

Assistant Professor
Room No. 210, 485 E. Gray St.
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, a qualitative researcher, is interested in the impact of health policies and practices on marginalized populations, in particular LGBTQ people and people of color. 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. He has teaching experience in the disciplines of Public Health, Politics, and Gender Studies.

Research Interests

Community-based participatory research; qualitative methodologies; health disparities; health literacy; health politics and policy; healthcare systems (in particular the U.S. health system and Britain’s National Health Service); social justice; the psychosocial experiences of marginalized groups; intersectionality; LGBTQ.

Current Projects

Health Literacy (Co-PI): This study examines the development, use, applicability, and design of health insurance and health systems literacy materials to residents of West and South Louisville. We are currently working in partnership to develop a training for community health workers. 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 an intervention using community-based participatory research. Funded by the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research (CCTSJR). 

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.

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.

eQuality: The goal of eQuality is to fully implement LGBT, gender nonconforming, and DSD healthcare competencies into the U of L School of Medicine curriculum.

Completed Projects

Using Health Literacy Outreach and Education to Improve Utilization and Health Outcomes in West Louisville (Co-PI): This community-based participatory research project aimed to develop and evaluate health communications campaigns on depression, childhood asthma, and HIV. Funded by Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.

LGBT Healthcare Equity & Access Project (PI): This study sought to understand the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) Kentuckians have when enrolling in and using health insurance. Funded by Kentucky Voices for Health.

Photovoice: LGBTQ residents of West Louisville reflected on the themes of justice, safety, hope, and racial equity through photography and narrative.

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.

Honors & Awards

2017 Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's Foundation Faculty Award - Assistant Professor, Research!Louisville

2016 Invited to the White House Convening on Advancing LGBT Progress in Rural America

2012 & 2013 Invited to the British Prime Minister’s LGBT Reception at Downing Street in recognition of volunteer consultancy work with the UK Government Equalities Office

2011 Postgraduate Researchers in Science Medicine Award for best spoken presentation in session as voted by peers

2009 American Political Science Association Bailey Award for the best paper presented on an LGBT topic


Journal Articles

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.

Combs, R., Wendel, M., Gonzales, T. (2018) Considering Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People in Health Communication Campaigns. Palgrave Communications. 4(1): 1-6. doi:10.1057/s415990180155-z.

Ali, N., Combs, R., Muvuka, B., Ayangeakaa, S. (2018) Addressing Health Insurance Literacy Gaps in an Urban African American Population: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Community Health. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s10900-018-0541-x

Noonan, E., Sawning, S., Combs, R., Weingartner, L., Martin, L., Jones, V.F., Holthauser, A. (2017). Engaging the Transgender Community to Improve Medical Education and Prioritize Health Care Initiatives. Teaching and Learning in Medicine. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2017.1365718

Sawning, S., Steinbock, S., Croley, R., Combs, R., Shaw, M.A., Ganzel, T. (2017) A Novel Initiative to Address Curriculum Gaps in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender-related Content: The University of Louisville LGBT Health and Wellness Competency Certificate Program. Education for Health. 30(2): 108-15. doi:10.4103/efh.EfH_78_16  

Knowles, S., Combs, R., Kirk, S., Griffiths, M., Patel, N., Sanders, C. (2015) 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

Clarke, E., Combs, R., Black, G., Hall, G. (2014) Patient Expectations and Attitudes Towards Specialist Genetic Eye Services. Journal of Genetic Counseling. October. doi: 10.1007/s10897-014-9775-7

Combs, R., McAllister, M., Payne, K., Lowndes, J., Devery, S., Webster, A., Downes, S., Moore, A., Ramsden, S., Black, G., Hall, G.C.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

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

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

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

Book Chapters

Combs, R. (2018 - forthcoming) '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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