Panel of researchers discuss health disparities among marginalized communities

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - 8:22pm

Dr. Lenette M. Jones, Dr. Jaclynn Hawkins, Dr. Jade Curry, and Dr. Sheria G. Robinson-Lane answer questions in a UM faculty forum on health research in the School of Nursing Wednesday morning.

Dr. Lenette M. Jones, Dr. Jaclynn Hawkins, Dr. Jade Curry, and Dr. Sheria G. Robinson-Lane answer questions in a UM faculty forum on health research in the School of Nursing Wednesday morning. Buy this photo
Mike Zlonkevicz/Daily

On Wednesday morning, School of Nursing assistant professors Lenette Jones and Sheria Robinson-Lane, Nursing research fellow Jade Burns, and Gender and Health Research Lab Associate Director Jaclynn Hawkins discussed their research on health disparities affecting African-American and Latinx communities as part of a panel discussion.

During the discussion, they also shared their related research and work in mentoring students. The event, which was a part of the Nursing School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Healthcare Series, saw about 40 students and faculty members in attendance.

Prior to the event, Jones said she hoped the panel would help students understand why looking at data for a wide range of populations is essential to medical research.

“I hope that the audience, especially students, gain a better understanding of why we decided to become researchers and why research with diverse populations is important,” she said. “I also hope that it is inspiring to learn about our backgrounds.”

Nursing graduate student Catherine White said she attended the event because she hopes to apply what she learns from the panel to her career.

“I would like to be a family nurse practitioner and I also want to be a professor one day," she said. “I want to also be able to translate research into practice, so disparities among minorities in research is really important to me because it affects my practice.”

While all the researchers said they are interested in studying health in minority populations, the focus of their research spans a wide variety of health disparities and subgroups within the African-American and Latinx communities. In Washtenaw County, for example, Black infants are twice as likely to be born at a low birth weight as white babies, while Hispanic children are also close to three times more likely than white children to grow up in poverty.

Hawkins focuses on chronic illness self-management in African-American and Latino men, particularly in the context of diabetes, while Jones is interested in eliminating the health disparities affecting African-American women with hypertension. Both of them credited experiences with their family members for influencing their career choices.

Burns works at the intersection of teen sexual health and technology, stressing that the health care gap in this area is with young men. She found her calling while working in the emergency room and noticing the same young men kept coming back for sexually transmitted infections.

Robinson-Lane focuses on reducing health disparities for older minority adults with cognitive impairments and their informal caregivers.

All four researchers have many students working with them currently and expressed the necessity of having fresh and diverse perspectives in the field of health care. They further emphasized the importance of collaboration and supporting one another, and Jones shared stories of when they connected with and supported each other at various conferences and events. Jones stated the goal of sharing these stories was to encourage students to work collaboratively with one another.

“It’s important for students to continue to support each other over the course of your trajectory,” she said.

Kevin Calhoun, program lead for Scholar and Community Engagement in the National Center for Institutional Diversity, said he was very interested in the numerous ways each researcher found their topic of expertise.

“It was very interesting to learn about how they came about their pathways in doing research in nursing, the different ways you can come to nursing to do research, it’s not just one way,” he said.