Friday, November 7, 2014

Our Experience Transforming THEory into ACTion as early-career community psychologists

by Yolonda Williams, Ph.D. and Rachel L. Jantke, M.A.

Following text by Yolonda Williams, Ph.D.

      When you ask most community psychologist about their research areas or topics of interest, many of them can share in great details about a specific topic(s) that they are most passionate about. Their research interests are usually varied across an assortment of disciplines such as financial literacy, PTSD among veterans, education reforms, health disparities within marginalized communities or disadvantage populations, etc. The point is most community psychologist will always maintain their research interest of choice. However, I believe that I differ in that perspective due to my lack of commitment to one specific research area. Instead, my over-arching goal is to create positive change within various forms of capacity (i.e., communities, workplace environments, nonprofit organizations, school, etc.).
  During my doctoral studies at National Louis University, I learned how to apply collaborative research and action into various theoretical frameworks in an effort to create positive change. Since graduating in 2012 with my PhD in community psychology, I have developed a sincere appreciation of the versatility that community psychology offers students. This field provides a framework that allows me to develop and enhance various skills such as consulting, program evaluation, and community organizing in a broader sense. My skill sets are not only applicable in communities’ settings, but in organizations, government agencies and school settings as well. In addition, community psychology also empowers me to embrace my lack of interest to one specific area and appreciate my desire to create positive change in an array of capacities even more.
  Currently, I work at DePaul University’s Center for Community Research as a Project Director, under the direction of Dr. Leonard A. Jason. My duties include managing a large scale NIH-funded longitudinal prospective study examining chronic fatigue syndrome following infectious mononucleosis in college students. This prospective study is the first of its kind because it follows the trajectory of subjects from a baseline healthy status and is also designed to collect pre-illness data to examine the psychological and biological factors that would cause college students to develop chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) following an onset of mono. The pathophysiological underpinnings of the development of chronic fatigue syndrome are poorly understood. Therefore, identifying risk factors that predispose patients to develop CFS may help uncover the underlying mechanisms.
      Several studies have examined the relationship between infectious mononucleosis (IM) and the development of CFS. However, it is unclear which psychological and biological variables are potential risks factors contributing to the development of CFS following IM because few prospective studies have collected baseline data before the onset of IM.

Following text by Rachel L. Jantke, M.A.

      Upon completion of my B.A. in Psychology, my intention was to advance through graduate school and become a clinical psychologist.  It was while earning my M.A. in Clinical Psychology that I realized the field of community psychology would afford the possibility of influencing macro-level change, and so I shifted my academic focus to Community Psychology doctoral programs.
  During my doctoral studies at National Louis University in Chicago, IL , I was able to apply program evaluation theories by working with two community-based non-profit organizations. The nature of this work allowed me to utilize the community psychology theories as a vehicle to write grant applications, create logic models, develop evaluation tools, and complete a comprehensive consultation for a community organization.  In addition, my dissertation is a program evaluation piece examining the impact of an in-school program on elementary school students, and relies on theories of empowerment and sense of community as contributing factors in the academic success of urban youth.  I am broadly interested in research methodology, study design, and program evaluation, which can instead be applied to a range of topic areas.
  Concurrently, I serve as a Project Director at DePaul University’s Center for Community Research in Chicago, IL, under the direction of Dr. Leonard A. Jason, where I am responsible for managing a 5-year NIH-funded epidemiological study titled Pediatric Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in a Community-Based Sample.  This study is the first of its kind to examine prevalence rates of CFS among children, and utilizes a variety of approaches to generate a stratified random sample, including community visits to involve participants.
      The first generation of adult chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) prevalence studies recruited samples from treatment settings and concluded that patients with CFS affected primarily Caucasian, middle- to- high-income groups, and this notion led to the inappropriate attribution of CFS being a Yuppie flu illness. Almost all we know about pediatric CFS is based on patients from primary and tertiary care settings, and these youth might not be representative of pediatric CFS in the general population. Biased sampling methods to identify pediatric cases of CFS have impeded efforts to understand the true prevalence of this illness as well as the nature of the condition, similar to what occurred with the first generation of adult CFS epidemiologic studies.
      The present study will determine the prevalence of pediatric CFS by studying a community based, demographically diverse sample of participants, unbiased by illness, help-seeking behaviors, or differential access to the health care system. Major strengths of this project are the diversity of the population, identification of cases from the community, and comparing these samples with community controls. This study is utilizing a community-based sample, and will determine the relative frequency of CFS among various groups (e.g., different age groups, gen-ders, racial/ethnic groups).


No comments:

Post a Comment