Alumni News

October 7, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Notable Alumni | Julia Applegate Leads Fight Against HIV While Serving Those in Need

Graphic for College of Arts & Sciences Notable Alumni Award

Editor’s Note: The College of Arts & Sciences Notable Alumni Awards honor alumni for broad career accomplishments, commitment to community service, and valuable contributions to Ohio University and the College of Arts & Sciences.

Julia Applegate ’92 Political Science

Julia Applegate has a goal shared by more than 250 global, national, regional, state and local organizations—end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2025.

To get there, she’s bringing together public policy, advocacy and healthcare services in her current role as director of the Equitas Health Institute for LGBTQ Health Equity, a leadership role in the state that she’s had since 2016.

In 2018 Equitas was an original signer on a Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States: A Roadmap for Federal Action, which demands that the federal government enact legislative and regulatory changes. Equitas, based in Columbus, Ohio, also participates in AIDS United’s Public Policy Council.

Julia Applegate, portrait

Julia Applegate

At Equitas, Applegate doesn’t just talk policy, she helps deliver services from health-care to legal to pharmacy that ensure that those in need get access to the care they deserve.

“Established in 1984, Equitas Health (formerly AIDS Resource Center Ohio), is a regional not-for-profit community-based healthcare system and federally qualified community health center look-alike. Its expanded mission has made it one of the nation’s largest HIV/AIDS, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) healthcare organizations. With 17 offices in 11 cities, it serves more than 67,000 individuals in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia each year through its diverse healthcare and social service delivery system focused around: primary and specialized medical care, community pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, HIV/STI prevention, advocacy, and community health initiatives,” says the Equitas website.

Applegate’s leadership and advocacy efforts have been building toward this crescendo since she earned a B.A. in Political Science from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University, followed by an M.A. in Women’s Studies from Ohio State University.

Before joining Equitas, she was LGBTQ Health Program Manager at Columbus Public Health. She also served in the Ohio Department of Public Health for 12 years coordinating statewide community planning for HIV+ people and those working with the HIV+ community.

Watch Applegate on Provider Behaviors that are Welcoming to LGBTQ Patients.

The Tools to Make the Case

Now Applegate is back in the classroom, this time adding more public health arrows to her quiver.

“I remember the exact moment I knew I needed to return to Ohio State to get my MPH. I was the LGBTQ health program manager at Columbus Public Health and the health commissioner asked me to prepare a presentation for the board of health that included a reference to the “Principles of the Ethical Practice of Public Health.” I had been working in public health for 13 years and was passionate about the field, but I had not worked with this seminal content. It was then that I realized my need for a more academic and theoretical knowledge of public health,” she says in an Ohio State University article.

“I am becoming a stronger public health professional because of what I’m learning in the PEP program and the relationships I have developed with faculty. I have a better grasp of the theoretical underpinnings of this profession because of my training, and as such am better prepared for the real-world public health challenges I face on a daily basis,” she says. “While it has been a challenge balancing personal, professional and educational obligations, I look forward to adding the letters M-P-H after my name in spring 2019 as an indication of my commitment to the principles that guide our work in public health.”

Julie Applegate and friend under umbrella

Julie Applegate, right, under an OHIO umbrella.

OHIO Memories

Applegate said the Notable Alumni award is a special honor.

“Both my parents attended OU, and I also lived there for two years as a child (as a second- and third-grade student at West Elementary). So much of my early life has ties to Athens and OU.”

But it was also a place where her life transitioned.

“I took a University Professor class with Dr. Marsha Gathron that changed my life immeasurably. She taught a course called ‘Raising Self Esteem.’  I struggled with my self-esteem, but I didn’t really know why it was such a battle for me. In the course of taking her class she asked us to write about our family dynamics. Through that exercise I realized that I was raised in an abusive household and that my mother was an alcoholic. Dr. Gathron enveloped me in support and affirmation as I came to these realizations. She connected me to services at the Wellness Center and elsewhere that got me the help I needed. It was not an easy realization to come to, but it set me on a life-long course of mental health recovery that I have been forever grateful for.”

Julie Applegate and friend on stairs

“I was fortunate to be at OU at the same time as Dr. Ron Hunt. I took several Political Science courses with him, but the most impactful class was Gay and Lesbian Politics. I took the course as I was struggling with my own sexual orientation, so it was especially powerful to me not just academically, but as a safe space to explore my identity. I was terrified to walk into class the first day, but because I was a Political Science major, I felt that being in the class wouldn’t necessarily out me. In any case, I learned so much about the history of the LGBTQ+ human rights movement at a time when the HIV epidemic was ravaging the gay community and the general populace was hateful toward the gay and lesbian people. As I came to terms with my own identity as a lesbian, I felt affirmed and proud to have been taught by a professor who was brave enough to be open with his identity and talk about our history. Few people my age know their LGBTQ+ history. I am not one of them thanks to Ron Hunt.

“On a lighter note, I was on the swim team and had a lot of fond memories of swim meets and events associated with being a collegiate athlete.

“I spent most of my summers in Athens working at a local record store, Schoolkids. I loved music and through that job learned how to DJ. I was fortunate to DJ at O’Hooley’s (now Jackie O’s) twice a week for the last two years of my time in college. I got paid $30 a night and free drinks. It was pretty much the coolest gig in town. ”

Julie Applegate as pirate

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