Dentato focuses on LGBTQ health and social justice
As a graduate of two different Jesuit universities, assistant professor Michael Dentato is committed to social justice. And it’s a mission he lives every day.
Dentato, who focuses much of his work on the LGBTQ community, has been a part of numerous research projects and teaches practice, policy, and leadership courses in Loyola’s School of Social Work. No matter what he’s doing, however, his goal is always the same: to be an advocate for those most in need.
Here, he talks about his early teaching career, how he became interested in his area of expertise, and why Chicago isn’t really the Second City—at least as far as he’s concerned.
How did you go from a degree in theater and media studies at Fordham to a PhD in Social Work at Loyola?
I realized early on that it would be difficult to maintain a long-term career in theater and media, so I returned to Fordham for a master’s degree in social work. After relocating to Miami post-9/11, I started teaching part-time courses in the School of Social Work at Barry University—and that experience confirmed my decision to pursue a PhD in social work and teach full time. Soon after, I relocated to Chicago and entered the PhD program at Loyola. I’ve been here ever since.
How did you first become interested in your area of study?
My primary area of research and scholarship pertains to LGBTQ health and health disparities. As a gay man, it has always been a personal and professional interest to examine various aspects of LGBTQ health to promote better understanding and advocacy—as well as to work toward eliminating oppression of this largely diverse minority community. My coming out process and undergraduate studies also occurred during the early years of the HIV epidemic in which I was propelled to advocate for those living with and impacted by HIV when little was being done around the country regarding treatment, education, and prevention.
How does Loyola’s social justice mission factor into your work?
The mission of the Jesuits is strongly connected to the tenets of social work, especially when it comes to social justice. I received my undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees all from Jesuit institutions—and if you combine that with my 20 years of experience in social work—you can clearly see how promoting social justice is a huge part of who I am.
What is your favorite New York weekend activity?
My favorite weekend trips to New York City are often spent wandering around, visiting Central Park, museums, and theaters. I especially enjoy spending time with friends, checking out new restaurants, and reconnecting with my second favorite city in the world—clearly Chicago has become No. 1.