Category Archives: New Connections

Sep 29 2014
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Intimate Partner Violence: What We Tell Our Children Can Make a Difference

A. Monique Clinton-Sherrod, PhD, is a 2008 alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Connections program. She is an RTI research psychologist with extensive experience in prevention research associated with a variety of psychosocial issues.

Monique Clinton-Sherrod

Recently while watching ESPN with my two children, we saw nonstop coverage of the Ray Rice incident, including the video of Mr. Rice violently assaulting Janay Palmer, his then-fiancée. I was peppered with questions from my children. 

“Did he get arrested? Why did he do that? What did she do? Is that something they shouldn’t show on television because it’s private?”

The recurring images and my children’s questions were all the more jarring because I recently lost a sorority sister in a murder-suicide by her former husband. These experiences have served as an unfortunate but teachable moment for my daughter and son, and reinforced the importance of my life’s work—both for my children and for society as a whole. 

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Sep 17 2014
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Shifting the Dialogue: Considering Ray Rice and Intimate Partner Abuse

Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at Pepperdine University and an associate editor of the journal Psychological Trauma. Bryant-Davis is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee who studies the intersection of trauma and culture. 

Thema Bryant-Davis

The assault perpetrated by Ray Rice, which ended in him dragging his unconscious fiancé, Janay Palmer, off an elevator, has captured wide public attention. Unfortunately, most of the dialogue has focused on blaming and shaming Ms. Palmer and other victims of intimate partner violence for staying in abusive relationships. There has also been an attempt to build sympathy for the perpetrator by questioning whether Rice’s punishment, which went from suspension for two games to permanent dismissal from his team, was fair. The most important questions have received far less attention. Why do abusive partners like Ray Rice abuse their spouses? Why does the public support intimate partner abuse either directly with words and actions or indirectly with their silence? What are the consequences of intimate partner abuse? And how can we stop intimate partner violence?

Partner abuse is an action not caused by the victim’s behavior, substance use, mental illness, or biology (being male).  People choose to abuse their partners emotionally, physically, sexually, verbally and financially to exact control over the person and because they believe they have the right to do so.  

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Aug 26 2014
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Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge: The August 2014 Issue

Have you signed up to receive Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge? The monthly Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) e-newsletter will keep you up to date on the work of the Foundation’s nursing programs, and the latest news, research, and trends relating to academic progression, leadership, and other essential nursing issues. Following are some of the stories in the August issue.

More Nursing Schools Preparing Students to Provide Team-Based Care
Several of the nation’s top nursing schools now require students to participate in at least one interprofessional education course or activity, reports the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. Experts have called for interprofessional education for decades, but more health professions schools are responding now because requirements are being written into health professions accreditation standards, says Barbara Brandt, PhD, head of the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, a public-private partnership supported by RWJF, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, and other organizations.

Physical Work Environment in Hospitals Affects Nurses’ Job Satisfaction, With Implications for Patient Outcomes, Health Care Costs
A study conducted by RWJF’s RN Work Project finds that a physical work environment that facilitates registered nurses’ efficiency, teamwork and interprofessional communication relates to higher job satisfaction. The study revealed that physical environment affected whether nurses could complete tasks without interruptions, communicate easily with other nurses and physicians, and/or do their jobs efficiently.

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Aug 22 2014
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We See the Dead and Don’t See the Living: The Realities of Black Men

Keon L. Gilbert, DrPH, MA, MPA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science & Health Education at St. Louis University's College for Public Health and Social Justice and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee.

Keon Gilbert

Involuntary martyrs.

In 1999, 28-year-old Demetrius DuBose, a linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was shot 12 times by two officers in his San Diego neighborhood. DuBose was a former co-captain of Notre Dame’s famed football team. His death came after he was questioned and harassed regarding a burglary in his neighborhood. Officers reported they had no choice but to shoot DuBose while he was handcuffed because they feared for their lives.

Many of these details sound similar to those surrounding the death of Michael (Mike) Brown Jr., who was shot at least six times in Ferguson, Missouri, this month. Brown was unarmed. He was reportedly fleeing from a police officer who also felt his life was in danger. 

What is missing from this picture is that black males also feel threatened and distrustful of authority figures and are routinely disengaged from contexts such as schools, medical facilities and neighborhoods. The narrative remains the same: Black males who die from excessive force become involuntary martyrs for the sustained legacy of institutional and interpersonal racism that is associated with the health disparities plaguing black communities. 

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Jul 29 2014
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Childhood Trauma: A Public Health Problem that Requires a Robust Response

Cindy A. Crusto, PhD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee, an associate professor of psychology in psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.

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Were the findings really a surprise? The recent release of the report The Burden of Stress in America commissioned by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, highlights the major role that stress plays in the health and well-being of American adults. As a researcher who studies the impact of emotional or psychological trauma on children’s health, I immediately thought about the findings in the context of trauma and the associated stress in the lives of children. That trauma can include violence in the home, school, and community.

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Two decades of research has produced clear findings on this significant public health problem: Psychological trauma can have a powerful influence in the lives of children, and if not detected and addressed early, it can (and often does) have long-lasting physical and mental health effects into adulthood. Despite this strong evidence, I have encountered the sheer resistance of some advocates who work with or on behalf of vulnerable children to fully engage in this topic. Perhaps it’s because of the belief that this talk about trauma is a fad—a hot topic that will fade as soon as something “sexier” comes along.

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Jul 28 2014
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What Protects Our Children from the Effects of Stress?

Lorraine McKelvey, PhD, is an associate professor of family and preventive medicine and pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections program (2008-2009) whose work focuses on vulnerable populations.

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For children, stress can come from sources inside and outside the family. It was recently documented that nearly two out of every three children in the United States have witnessed or been victims of violence in their homes, schools, or communities. That’s a staggering statistic when we consider the well-established link between children’s exposure to stress and their long-term mental and physical health outcomes.

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Indeed, we know that early exposure to adverse experiences can change the way that our brains develop and function. We also know that exposure to adversity increases the likelihood that children will develop psychosocial problems, like depression, aggression, and other antisocial behaviors. There is even evidence that exposure to stressors in childhood increases the likelihood of having heart disease and cancer in adulthood!

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Jul 23 2014
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Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Linda Charmaraman is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and a former National Institute of Child Health and Human Development postdoctoral scholar. She is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee, examining the potential of social media networks to promote resiliency in vulnerable populations.

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If you were stressed out and wanted to vent to your friends about it, how would you let them know? Would you pick up the phone and talk, or text? Would you set up time to grab coffee or go for a brisk walk? Or would you post to Facebook why your day just couldn’t get any worse?

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As I logged into the recent RWJF/NPR/Harvard School of Public Health-sponsored Stress in America discussion, I identified with the panelists who were dispelling stereotypes about “highly stressed” individuals being high-level executives or those at the top of the ladder. Instead of finding work-related stress as a top concern, as is often played out in the media and popular culture, the researchers were finding that individuals with health concerns, people with disabilities, and low-income individuals were experiencing the highest levels of stress. The panelists talked about the importance of qualities like resiliency and the ability to turn multiple, competing stressors into productive challenges to overcome, and the integral role of communities in shaping, buffering, and/or exacerbating stress.

We often consider our communities as living, working, playing in close physical proximity. But what about the online spaces? What about our opt-in networked friendship circles ... our cyber-audience who sign up to read our posts with mundane observations, proud revelations, and the occasional embarrassing photos?

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Jun 12 2014
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New Connections: Offering Grants, Opportunities, and a Dynamic Network

Catherine Malone, DBA, MBA, is a program associate working with the Disparities Portfolio at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).  

I am so excited to share this infographic for New Connections: Increasing Diversity of RWJF Programming, which illustrates the grants component of the program and its impact. New Connections provides research grants and career development opportunities for researchers of diverse backgrounds, while expanding the perspectives that inform Robert Wood Johnson Foundation programming. To date, 115 scholars, spanning seven cohorts, have received research grants coupled with services related to career development through the program. These scholars are junior investigators and mid-career professionals from low-income communities, groups that have been historically underrepresented in research disciplines, and those who are the first in their families to graduate college.

But that is just part of the program. What makes New Connections so unique is the program’s diverse network of more than 1,300 scholars—which includes grantees and alumni, in addition to 1,200 scholars who have not received grant funding through the program. The New Connections Network includes scholars who are eligible for the program and have either (1) applied for a grant and/or (2) participated in one of the career development activities offered by New Connections, such as a major training event, regional meeting, or webinar. The Network’s career development opportunities include methodological training, manuscript and grant writing workshops, and leadership development coaching. 

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Apr 29 2014
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How to Advance Minority Health? A Diverse, Culturally Competent Health Care Workforce.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Michelle L. Odlum, BSN, MPH, EdD, a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University School of Nursing, responds to the question, “Minority health is advanced by combating disparities and promoting diversity. How do these two goals overlap?” Odlum has more than ten years of experience as a disparities researcher. She is a recipient of an RWJF New Connections Junior Investigator award.

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As a health disparities researcher, my health promotion and disease prevention efforts are rooted in sociocultural aspects of health. This approach is critical to improved outcomes. In fact, when socioeconomic factors are equalized, race, ethnicity, and culture remain contributing factors to adverse minority health. I have come to understand that the key to combating health disparities lies heavily in cultural understanding. A diverse, culturally competent health care workforce is essential to health equity.

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Apr 25 2014
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How to Advance Minority Health? Our Educational Systems Can Help.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Janet Chang, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., responds to the question, “Minority health is advanced by combating disparities and promoting diversity. How do these two goals overlap?” Chang is an alumna of the RWJF New Connections Program; she studies sociocultural influences on social support, help-seeking, and psychological functioning among diverse ethnic/racial groups.

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Given the rapidly changing demographic landscape, ethnic/racial minorities will constitute the majority of the U.S. population by 2043 (U.S. Census, 2010). This inevitable shift to a majority-minority population has far-reaching implications for our society. The future of the United States will largely be determined by how we address growing disparities in income distribution, health care, and health outcomes. Yet, frank discussions about disparities and diversity lag behind the rapid population growth of ethnic/racial minority groups. In this respect, educational systems play a pivotal role in facilitating and shaping the dialogue about diversity. By promoting diversity, we can combat health disparities and advance minority health.

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