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Black History Month Research Series

2023 Series

Transforming Institutional Practices That Harm Black Families: Moving to Action | February 22, 2023

1st Panelist, Dr. Darcey Merritt, is a Professor at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago. Dr. Merritt’s empirical scholarship is meaningfully informed by her vast experience as a practitioner in private and public child welfare systems. Her research centers on child maltreatment prevention, specifically neglect, and parenting in socio-economic contexts. She is dedicated to elevating the voices of systems-impacted parents and children in the discussion of prevention methods and service delivery. Her research has been published extensively. Merritt received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College with concentrations in sociology and psychology and earned her MSW and PhD in social welfare from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Department of Social Welfare.

2nd Panelist, Shereen A. White, is the Director of Advocacy & Policy at Children’s Rights. Shereen joined Children’s Rights in 2019 and, in 2021, transitioned from litigation to lead CR’s Advocacy work, focusing on reimagining systems impacting youth and families. Previously, she worked on special education matters with the Philadelphia School District and as a Child Advocate at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Shereen earned a J.D. from Villanova Law School and a B.A. in political science from Duke University.

Moderator: Dean Ramona Denby-Brinson, Ph.D., UNC School of Social Work

Watch the recorded panel discussion here.


Women, Maternal and Child Health Disparities: Moving to Action | February 20, 2023

1st Panel Presentation by Dr. Arden Handler on The Story of Postpartum Medicaid Extension in Illinois. Dr. Handler is the Director of the Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health and a Professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. Her research career reflects her long-standing commitment to reducing inequities and improving the health of women, pregnant and postpartum persons, children, and families. Her research investigates factors that increase the risk for inequities in adverse pregnancy outcomes and how prenatal, postpartum, and well-woman care can ameliorate risks and reduce inequities. Dr. Handler is the PI of several research projects. She is a former member of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality.

2nd Panel Presentation by Dr. Millicent N. Robinson on “Won’t Kill Me. Won’t Kill Me. Throw the Hammer Down and We’ll Be Free”: How John Henryism Shapes Chronic Health Conditions among African American and Caribbean Black Women. Dr. Robinson is an interdisciplinary scholar, consultant, and certified practitioner of Reiki Therapy. Dr. Robinson is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the UNC School of Social Work through the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity, where her research centers the stress, coping, healing, and health experiences of Black women. More specifically, her research investigates the biopsychosocial mechanisms that shape the mind-body connection and related mental and physical health outcomes among Black women. Her research has been published in several academic journals. Dr. Robinson a “Triple Tar Heel”; B.A. in Psychology MSW, and MPH. She earned her PhD from UCLA.

Moderator: Gina Chowa, Ph.D., Professor, UNC School of Social Work

Watch the recorded panel presentation and discussion here.


Racial Disparities in HIV Prevention and Care: Moving to Action | February 15, 2023

1st Panel Presentation by Dr. Kemesha Gabbidon on Navigating stigma: An interpretive phenomenological analysis of young Black and Latin same gender-loving men. Dr. Gabbidon is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of South Florida. Her academic training is in public health and her scholarly expertise is in the area of intersectional stigma, youth sexual health, health promotion, disease prevention, and the use of qualitative and mixed methodological approaches.

2nd Panel Presentation by Dr. Latoya Small on Perceptions of Healthcare Accessibility and Medical Mistrust among African American Women Living with HIV in the U.S. Dr. Small’s research focuses on health disparities, specifically regarding mental health and treatment engagement among women and children living with HIV in the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa. In the U.S., Dr. Small examines how systemic barriers to care, poverty-related stress, and mental health interact and relatedly impact HIV treatment engagement among Black and Latina women in urban communities.

3rd Panel Presentation by Dr. Sylvia Shangani on The Challenge of Engaging Black Women in HIV Prevention: Role of Intersecting Social Determinants of Health. Dr Shangani is a public health behavioral scientist. Her expertise centers on health disparities, HIV prevention strategies, and the implementation of community-engaged public health interventions. Her current research focuses on understanding the underlying behavioral and social risk factors for health disparities, with applications to HIV. She earned her PhD and ScM, both in behavioral and social health science, from Brown University School of Public Health.

Moderator: Rainier Masa, Ph.D. Associate Professor, UNC School of Social Work

Watch the recorded panel presentation and discussion here.


Confronting Racism Denial: Naming Racism and Moving to Action | February 8, 2023

Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD is a family physician and epidemiologist who is currently a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London. Her work focuses on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of our nation and the world. Her allegories on “race” and racism illuminate topics that are otherwise difficult for many Americans to understand or discuss: that racism exists, racism is a system, racism saps the strength of the whole society, and we can act to dismantle racism. Dr. Jones has held faculty positions at Harvard and Emory Universities, and Morehouse School of Medicine. She was a Medical Officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard, and a Presidential Visiting Fellow at the Yale School of Medicine. She is also an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Past President of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Jones earned her BA in Molecular Biology from Wellesley College, her MD from the Stanford University School of Medicine, and both her Master of Public Health and her PhD in Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

Watch Dr. Jones’ presentation here:


2022 Series

Coping Amidst COVID as BIPOC | February 24, 2022

Although we have learned of the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on BIPOC, we are yet to understand the full extent of the impacts as investigators provide evidence. Rachel Goode presented on the effects of COVID on the specific impact of the pandemic on Black women reporting disordered eating behaviors. This innovative study focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on the eating behaviors of Black women. Anjalee Sharma presented a study that assessed stress, coping, and anxiety among essential workers of color during COVID-19. Specific mechanisms of coping assessed included binge eating and substance use. Other factors assessed included anxiety levels and perceived stress during the pandemic. Sharon Parker presented a qualitative analysis on the impact of COVID-19 and the intimate partner relationships of Black women attending  Historically Black Colleges and a predominately White University in the Southern United States. She explored how COVID-19 impacted partner communication and sexual behavior.

Watch the recorded 1-hour panel presentation and discussion here.


Measurement in Research, using an Anti-Racism Framework | February 17, 2022

Measurement in research is critical as it lays the foundation for a more accurate understanding of the magnitude of a phenomenon, the impact of an intervention, or other causal relationships that will translate into practice models and policies that have real-life implications on people’s lives. In this panel, Kirsten Kainz provided a brief review of recommendations for social science measurement from the National Research Council (2011) and repositioned those recommendations within a systems science worldview for the purpose of proposing anti-racist measurement practices. Underlying the presentation was the assumption that not all system science is anti-racist, but anti-racist science requires systemic framings.  Melissa Villodas presented a study that used exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses to investigate the empirical and theoretical meaningfulness of the modified Neighborhood Cohesion Index within a population of African American youth living in public housing. Michael Lambert presented the theoretical and empirical methods of item response theory (IRT), which can permit antiracist measurement across different socio-ethnic groups. A set of critical questions to guide anti-racist measurement practice were discussed.

Watch the recorded 1-hour panel presentation and discussion here.