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Change Agent: Dr. Karen Parker

Change Agents

/CHānj/ /‘ājənt/

One who acts as a catalyst for change.

Change Agents are everyday people who do small things that have significant impact. They are cultivators who plant seeds in our lives (knowingly or unknowingly). Their presence nurtures and molds us every day, giving shape to the environment in which we work. They are fueled by their own passion to contribute, and thus, incite passion in others. They are the risk takers; the visionaries who see possibilities when others see obstacles. They are catalysts that make the Game Changing moments of an organization possible.




  • make or become different
  • to alter the terms or transform entirely
  • arrive at a fresh phase; become new


  • a new or refreshingly different experience




  • a person who acts on behalf of another
  • one who takes an active role or produces a specified effect
  • a doer of an action
Do you know a change agent?
Dr. Karen Parker

Change Agents are cultivators who plant seeds in our lives. Their presence nurtures and molds us every day, giving shape to the environment in which we work. They are fueled by their own passion to contribute and thus incite passion in others. They are the risk takers and the visionaries who see possibilities when others see obstacles.

Dr. Karen Parker, Director of the Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office (SGMRO) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a change agent for the Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) community due to her vast contributions and support.

How is this change agent addressing issues in the SGM community?

Dr. Parker started the SGMRO at NIH in September of 2015. Prior to this, Dr. Parker had been involved with the SGM Research Coordinating Committee (RCC) in its prior iterations, and since the charter group which dates to 2008.

Her accomplishments were achieved in furtherance of the mission of the SGMRO, which is to expand the knowledge base of SGM health, remove barriers to their progress, support the community of SGM scholars, and to evaluate the progress of the SGMRO toward these goals.

Dr. Parker is strengthening the community of researchers and scholars who conduct research relevant to SGM health and well-being and provide professional training opportunities and tools by hosting regional workshops across the country. Since 2018, three have been held in Los Angeles, CA, Boston, MA, and Atlanta, GA. Some goals of the workshop are to help develop mentoring relationships between senior and junior researchers as well as to enhance the capacity to design, conduct, and report SGM research and provide researchers an opportunity to interact with NIH staff at their institutions.

Her involvement in the community also includes:

  • Serving as co-chair of the SGM RCC and overseeing the coordination of all meetings and related activities.
  • Convening the Sexual and Gender Minority Research Working Group (SGMRWG) of the council of councils to conduct the mid-course review of the NIH SGM Research Strategic Plan.
  • Collaborating with the Clinical Center (CC) to implement the collection of gender identity within the CC electronic health record; supported training for clinical center staff and development of program activities.
  • Continuing to work with the All of Us Program to refine SGM-related data collection efforts reporting requirements.

What is this change agent doing to show leadership in diversity and inclusion of the SGM community?

Dr. Parker was instrumental in the formation of SGMRO before becoming the director. She is very passionate about the mission of this office and has been instrumental in the office’s success since becoming the director. Among many of her roles and responsibilities as the senior leader of the office, she represents NIH and participates in cross-federal agency committees like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Coordinating Committee, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Measuring Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and the HHS Healthy People 2030 LGBT Subcommittee. She also represents NIH at national meetings, like the Building the Next Generation of Academic Physicians, LGBT Health Workforce, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), and institutions, like Kaiser Permanente, Amgen, and universities across the country.

As the Director of SGMRO, Dr. Parker was able to develop SGMRO’s first scientific workshop in 2018, Methods and Measurement in SGM- Related Health Research, and is currently planning the office’s second scientific workshop, Bisexual Health, scheduled for September 2019. These workshops provide an opportunity for NIH to learn from experts across the country on these special topics and the outcomes of the workshop allow SGMRO to strategically think about the topic and develop next steps. Dr. Parker has also developed and launched the NIH SGM Research Investigator Awards in 2018 and oversees the implementation of the SGM Administrative Supplements, which the office contributes significant funds. In the past month, Dr. Parker’s office has expanded with the addition of three staff members, which allow her and the office to have a greater impact on SGM research.

Dr. Karen Parker is a 2019 Sexual & Gender Minority (SGM) Community and Ally Leader Awardee.

"Sexual and gender minority" (SGM) is an umbrella term* that encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations as well as those whose sexual orientation, gender identity, and expressions, or reproductive development varies from traditional, societal, cultural, or physiological norms. This includes Disorders or Differences of Sex Development (DSD), sometimes known as intersex.

To further celebrate Pride Month at NIH, we are honoring individuals who help to advance SGM research or help to make NIH a more welcoming environment for individuals in SGM communities.

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