Category Archives: Project L/EARN

Aug 15 2014
Comments

Mentoring to Build a Culture of Health

Adefemi Betiku was a junior at Rutgers University when he noticed that he wasn’t like the other students.

During a physics class, he raised his hand to answer a question. “Something told me to look around the lab,” he remembers. “When I did, I realized that I was the only black male in the room.”

In fact, he was one of the few black men in his entire junior class of 300.

“There’s a huge problem with black males getting into higher education,” says Betiku, currently a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student at New York University (NYU). “That has a lot to do not just with being marginalized but with how black men perceive themselves and their role in society.”

U.S. Department of Education statistics show that black men represent 7.9 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds in America but only 2.8 percent of undergraduates at public flagship universities. According to the Pew Research Center, 69 percent of black female high school graduates in 2012 enrolled in college by October of that year. For black male high school graduates, the college participation rate was 57 percent—a gap of 12 percent.

Betiku’s interest in the issues black men face, especially in education, deepened at Project L/EARN, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded initiative with the goal of increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups in the fields of health, mental health and health policy research.

Read more

Jun 4 2014
Comments

The Effect of Cultural Stereotypes on Mental and Public Health

Lorenzo Lorenzo-Luaces graduated from the University of Puerto Rico–Rio Piedras, where he studied cross-cultural differences in suicidality. He is currently a graduate student in the University of Pennsylvania clinical psychology PhD program. Lorenzo-Luaces is an alumnus of Project L/EARN, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, and Rutgers University.

Lorenzo Lorenzo-Luaces

The population of groups referred to as “minority” is growing at a faster rate in this country than Caucasians, with estimates suggesting that by 2060, 57 percent of the U.S. population will be non-White. This demographic shift could create a public health concern if racial/ethnic minorities remain underrepresented in mental health research. At present, these populations are less likely to receive mental health care than Whites. When they do receive care, it is usually of lesser quality.

Stereotypes among racial/ethnic minority communities regarding mental health are complex. Research suggests that they tend to have more negative beliefs about mental illnesses than White communities; for example, they are more likely to believe that mental illnesses occur due to factors outside of the individual’s control (e.g., spiritual or environmental reasons). However, despite generally holding more negative views about mental illnesses, research shows that racial/ethnic minorities tend to have less punitive attitudes about the mentally ill. Moreover, they tend to be more accepting about mental health treatments, although they express a clear preference for psychological services over medications.

Differences in access to care, rather than attitudes, likely explain the racial/ethnic gap in service use. Besides the obvious discrepancies in socioeconomic status (SES) between Caucasians and racial/ethnic minorities, the latter’s preference for psychological services may be one barrier to access. This is because, even among the insured, psychological services are more expensive in the short term and harder to access than psychotropic medications. There also are questions as to whether psychological interventions tested largely on White populations are effective for minorities. 

Read more

May 21 2014
Comments

Communities of Color and Mental Health

David Fakunle, BA, is a first-year doctoral student in the mental health department of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is an alumnus of Project L/EARN, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University.

file

It is always interesting to speak with my relatives when an egregious act of violence occurs, such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School back in December 2012. They are always so disheartened about the mindset of an individual who can perpetrate such a horrible act. When I mentioned that this particular perpetrator, Adam Lanza, suffered from considerable mental disorder including possible undiagnosed schizophrenia, the response was something to the effect of, “Okay, so he was crazy.”

That’s it. He was crazy. I love my family dearly, but it saddens me as to how misinformed some of my relatives are about mental health. Notice that I say “misinformed” as opposed to “ignorant” because to me, being ignorant means you are willingly disregarding the information provided to you. But that is the issue: communities of color, in many cases, are not well-informed, if informed at all, about mental health. That is what drives the negative stereotypes that are highly prevalent within communities of color.

Read more

May 20 2014
Comments

The Culture of Mental Health Stigma in Communities of Color

Ayorkor Gaba, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist and project manager at the Center of Alcohol Studies, Rutgers University, as well as a clinical supervisor at the Rutgers Psychological Clinic. She has a private practice in Highland Park, New Jersey and is an American Psychological Association-appointed representative to the United Nations. She is an alumna of Project L/EARN, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University.

file

Mental illness affects one in five adults in America. A disproportionately high burden of disability from mental disorders exists in communities of color. Research has shown that this higher burden does not arise from a greater prevalence or severity of illnesses in these communities, but stems from individuals in these communities being less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for their mental illnesses, having less access to and availability of mental health services, receiving less care, and experiencing poorer quality of care. Even after controlling for factors such as health insurance and socioeconomic status, ethnic minority groups still have a higher unmet mental health need than non-Hispanic Whites (Broman, 2012).  

There are a number of factors driving these statistics in our communities, including attitudes, lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services, distrust, stigma, and more. In our society all racial groups report mental health stigma, but culturally bound stigma may have a differential impact on communities of color. Stigma has been described as a cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with mental illnesses (President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003).  Stigma in the general public often leads to internalized stigma at the individual level.  Several studies have shown that internalized stigma is an important mechanism decreasing the willingness to seek mental health treatment.

Read more

Mar 26 2014
Comments

Where Evidence Meets Policy—and Politics

Annik Sorhaindo, MSc, is a senior program researcher with the Population Council’s Reproductive Health Program in Mexico. A 1997 alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Project L/EARN initiative, she conducts research to provide evidence that helps inform government policy. This post reports on her work.

Fifty-five percent of all pregnancies in Mexico are unplanned.

That dramatic statistic, from a report by the Guttmacher Institute, can be mapped to the limited access women have to contraception.

“Many women can’t readily obtain contraceptive methods,” says Annik Sorhaindo. As part of a five-organization alliance working to improve reproductive health in the world’s 11th most populous country, the council directs research and analysis for the effort.

“My work focuses on answering research questions: Which occurrences in daily life impact women’s decisions about contraception? What are the impediments to preventing teen pregnancy? What are the challenges to using contraception post-abortion?”

Sorhaindo is quick to note that the council stays above the political fray. “We do the research and interpret the results, and the advocacy organizations address the politics,” she says.

Read more

Jun 17 2013
Comments

Life-Changing Fellowship Spurred Me to Pursue Advanced Nursing Degree

Imani Baker is an alumna of Project L/EARN, a graduate education preparation program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). She recently earned her bachelor’s degree in public health from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and plans to become a nurse practitioner.

file

The two words that I can use to describe my journey through Project L/EARN are: life changing. 

I learned about the RWJF-funded program from an advisor who referred me to its faculty program director, Jane Miller, PhD. Dr. Miller warned me that the program would be “intense” and “much more work than you are used to.”

However, there are no words that could have ever prepared me for what I was about to experience that summer. Before I was admitted to Project L/EARN, I was not confident in my abilities to compete outside of my comfort zone, which included subjects specifically related to the health sciences.

This program forced me to face many of my weaknesses and confront my worst fears head on. Each day, I was overwhelmed with self-doubt. I was not the best public speaker; I struggled in statistics; and there were times when I questioned why I was picked for the program.

I said to myself, “I want to be a nurse. I don’t want to sit behind a computer and look at numbers all day. What did I get myself into?” However, my mentor, Dr. Judith Lucas, EdD, RN, GCNS-BC, taught me why it was so important for nurses to be involved in research and to have advanced graduate degrees.

Read more

Sep 11 2012
Comments

Project L/EARN: Graduates Reflect

Project L/EARN is an intensive, 10-week summer internship for undergraduate college students who are from socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. The program, funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides students with training, experience and mentoring to make them stronger candidates for admission to graduate programs. Interns attend lecture sessions, complete Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) preparation, and work with mentors to write a research paper, which they present as a poster. This year’s program was held at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. This is part of a series of posts where scholars who completed the program discuss the experience. Learn more about Project L/EARN.

file

Alison Hernandez
Hometown: North Bergen, NJ
Rising senior at Rutgers University
Major: Pharmacy
Internship Research Project: The Influence of Patient Health Perceptions on Engagement in End-of-Life Discussions

Human Capital Blog: How does your Project L/EARN experience relate to or support your educational and professional goals?

Alison Hernandez: Before Project L/EARN I did not have appreciation for research the way I do today. As a prospective clinician, I think it’s important that clinicians know about research and improving health outcomes through programs and initiatives. And if clinicians don’t know about this research that’s going on, nothing’s going to change. So it’s important that I take these lessons I’ve learned at Project L/Earn and bring it to my fellow classmates.

Read more

Sep 5 2012
Comments

Project L/EARN: Graduates Reflect

Project L/EARN is an intensive, 10-week summer internship for undergraduate college students who are from socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. The program, funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides students with training, experience and mentoring to make them stronger candidates for admission to graduate programs. Interns attend lecture sessions, complete Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) preparation, and work with mentors to write a research paper, which they present as a poster. This year’s program was held at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. This is part of a series of posts where scholars who completed the program discuss the experience. Learn more about Project L/EARN.

file

Stephanie Jimenez
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ
Rising junior at Rutgers University
Major: Sociology
Internship Research Project: Breast Cancer Survivors’ Perceptions of Quality Cancer-Related Care from Primary Care Providers

Human Capital Blog: What aspect of the Project L/EARN internship has been most helpful and why?

Stephanie Jimenez: The most helpful part of my Project L/EARN experience this summer was the guidance that I received from my mentor as well as the things I learned from my instructional staff. The feedback I gained from my presentation helped me gain perspective.

Read more

Aug 27 2012
Comments

Project L/EARN: Graduates Reflect

Project L/EARN is an intensive, 10-week summer internship for undergraduate college students who are from socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. The program, funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides students with training, experience and mentoring to make them stronger candidates for admission to graduate programs. Interns attend lecture sessions, complete Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) preparation, and work with mentors to write a research paper, which they present as a poster. This year’s program was held at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. This is part of a series of posts where scholars who completed the program discuss the experience. Learn more about Project L/EARN.

file

Brandon McDonald
Hometown: Rochester, NY
Rising Senior at the University of Rochester
Major: Public Health
Internship Research Project: Marital Status as a Predictor of Dental Health Service Utilization

Human Capital Blog: What did you expect before you arrived? How different is the reality?

Brandon McDonald: When I first arrived at Project L/EARN, I expected there’d be a sense of difficulty as well as more independent-based projects. In actuality, I realized that there’s a broader sense of structure and a bigger support system than I would have ever expected. There are different segments when the papers are due so you have [more] connections with your mentor than what I would have thought as well.

Read more

Aug 21 2012
Comments

Project L/EARN: Graduates Reflect

Project L/EARN is an intensive, 10-week summer internship for undergraduate college students who are from socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. The program, funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides students with training, experience and mentoring to make them stronger candidates for admission to graduate programs. Interns attend lecture sessions, complete Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) preparation, and work with mentors to write a research paper, which they present as a poster. This year’s program was held at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. This is part of a series of posts where scholars who completed the program discuss the experience. Learn more about Project L/EARN.

file

Thomasina Anane
Hometown: Silver Spring, MD
Rising junior at Johns Hopkins University
Major: Public Health / Sociology
Internship Research Project: Goal-Striving Stress & Mental Health: Race and SES Variations

Human Capital Blog: Are there any insights about your Project L/EARN experience you’d like to share?

Thomasina Anane: Project L/EARN taught me two things. One: stop procrastinating and learn better time management skills and two: Project L/EARN is a lot like a 9 to 5. You can equate it to a work day. Having to wake up on time every day to be here has taught me the importance of how you present yourself as a professional who’s confident in what she’s doing. Just knowing what you’re doing and how people perceive you and your work. It’s added a sense of rigor to what I do. I’m definitely taking what I’m doing seriously. Project L/EARN has taught me the importance of what all this education means. In the future, being able to use what we learned and be confident and becoming the career person you want to be now. And I appreciate Project L/EARN for that.

Read more