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Lab Director

Dr. Kirsty A. Clark (she/her/hers) is a social and psychiatric epidemiologist. She serves as an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health, and Society and Public Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University and as a core faculty member in the Vanderbilt LGBTQ+ Policy Lab. Dr. Clark’s program of research focuses on examining mental health disparities, especially suicide, disproportionately impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) populations and developing evidence-based interventions to disrupt the course of such disparities. She has published more than 45 peer-reviewed papers focused on LGBTQ+ mental health. Dr. Clark is the PI of a NIMH K01 award which aims to use novel real-time assessment methods to capture associations between stigma-related stressors and suicidal ideation among LGBTQ+ adolescents in the US Southeast. At Vanderbilt University, she teaches LGBTQ+ Health Disparities in the Department of Medicine, Health, and Society. 

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Clinical Director

Dr. Melissa Cyperski (she/her/hers) is a licensed clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor with the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Cyperski provides mental health services in an outpatient care setting, including the interdisciplinary pediatric gender clinic at Vanderbilt. She also works as an educator and supervisor, training students and community partners in trauma-informed, affirmative mental health practices. She is passionate about improving access to quality care for diverse populations. Dr. Cyperski considers it an honor to serve and advocate for LGBTQ+ children, adolescents, young adults, and their families. She is the Clinical Director for the lab, collaborating with the team around procedures and protocols that support discovery and implementation of research in a sensitive manner. We value your safety, privacy, and wellbeing.

Graduate Students

Alex Argiros (she/her/hers) is a second-year master’s student in the Child Studies program on the Clinical & Developmental Research track. She graduated summa cum laude from San Diego State University in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Interdisciplinary Studies through the Weber Honors College. As an undergraduate, Alex volunteered in a research lab studying family-based preventative interventions for child and adolescent anxiety and depression. She is broadly interested in identifying risk factors and developing preventative interventions for depression and suicidality in children and adolescents. More specifically, she is interested in the roles of parenting and emotion regulation. In her free time, Alex enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, and photography.


Kaitlyn Phillips (she/her/hers) is a first-year master’s student in the Community Development and Action program. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in May 2022 with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Counselor Education. At the University of South Carolina, Kaitlyn served as a research assistant in a lab examining individual, interpersonal, and structural factors impacting the health experiences of different communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a CDA student, her research goals are community-oriented and emphasize the role of structural stressors on community wellbeing and functioning. She is interested in the role of comprehensive sexual education as a preventative intervention against perpetration and victimization of gender-based violence. Outside of the lab Kaitlyn enjoys cooking, painting, traveling, and going to concerts. 

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Undergraduate Students

Elisa Park (she/her/hers) is a junior undergraduate student majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society and Political Science. Guided by Dr. Clark, she will be working on a research project examining the associations between different aspects of a school environment and the heightened risks of poor academic outcomes among LGBTQ+ students. Elisa is interested in the effects of social and environmental factors on minoritized people and how policy or other interventions can aid or inhibit progress in protecting the health and wellbeing of minority populations. She hopes to learn more about how oppression and discrimination manifests in physical and mental health issues and how to navigate using both quantitative and qualitative data in her research methodology. In her free time, Elisa enjoys exploring the Nashville area, keeping up with certain sports (figure skating and hockey), and curating music playlists.


Danait Issac (she/her/hers) is a junior undergraduate student majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society with minors in Environmental & Sustainability and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Danait’s research interests primarily relate to the intersections of gender identity, race, and systems of oppression. Her on-going research with Dr. Clark investigates the current status, access, and barriers of re-entry programs in the Southeast region for LGBTQ+ people. Danait aims to utilize qualitative research methods to develop healthcare and policy interventions for vulnerable populations. In her free time, she enjoys outdoor recreational activities and going to RnB concerts.

Joseph Sexton (he/him/his) is a senior undergraduate majoring in Cognitive Studies, Mathematics, and Medicine, Health & Society. At Vanderbilt, Joseph is the founding director of the Vanderbilt Critical Psychiatry Conference, organizes the politically centered Vanderbilt Mental Health Reform group, and is on the board for Vanderbilt Effective Altruism. Additionally, Joseph works closely with Mental Health America of the MidSouth and serves on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's state policy committee. He has a longstanding interest in suicidology and clinical psychology more broadly, especially in terms of methodology. In the Clark Lab, Joseph is working to complete his honors thesis in Cognitive Studies by investigating how the interpersonal theory of suicide may be molded to best describe suicidal thoughts and behaviors in sexual and gender minority youth. Joseph was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for excellent potential in research in 2021 and hopes to eventually pursue a PhD in clinical or quantitative psychology. In his free time, he likes playing story-driven video games, bug-catching, and watching documentaries.

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Rachel Marlowe, M.Ed. (2021-2022)

Lab Alumni

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