From left to right: Sheri Lapatin, Tessy Pumacahua, Benjamin Cook, Andrea DePetris, Margarita Alegria
Tessy T. Pumacahua
My summer was spent investigating and developing research questions relevant to patient-provider nonverbal communication and patient retention in mental health care through the 2010 Harvard Catalyst: Summer Clinical and Translational Research program. During my summer stay, I associated with other similar minded individuals and shared experiences with my cohort that I will cherish. I acquired useful skills for the maintenance, screening, and interpretation of data. I also learned new ways of developing hypotheses through qualitative and a mixed methods design. I was able to work under and receive feedback from Dr. Norah Mulvaney-Day and Dr. Mararita Alegria. I also enjoyed the multidisciplinary approach that the center provided through their various meetings and training seminars. During this time, other members of the center would bring forward their ideas and the rest of the team would offer their feedback and this was extremely pleasant as the center had many diverse discussions from the multicultural and multidisciplinary staff. We plan to present the findings of our work at a conference, which revealed a positive relationship between provider-behaviors, computer use, intake setting, and patient retention. I would like to thank the staff of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research, as well as the Harvard Catalyst program, which provided this challenging opportunity that has helped my development as a researcher and a communicator.
I first arrived at the CMMHR carrying inside me a bundle of unease, knotted in crimson ties. This baggage quickly unraveled upon meeting Sheri Lapatin, the center’s genial Associate Director, Dr. Benjamin Cook and Dr. Norah Mulvaney-Day, two very supportive and compassionate Investigators, and the very welcoming and warm Principal Investigator, Dr. Margarita Alegría. I quickly became aware that this center was a refuge of sorts within the sphere of academia: I learned that CMMHR is a place where people of a variety of backgrounds unite and foster mutual support, trust, and grounded-intelligence to champion the needs of marginalized peoples while propelling public awareness foreword. Notably, their research is both community-oriented and community-based. With the guidance of Dr. Benjamin Cook, I was able to participate in the center’s mission. Dr. Cook and I conducted research that asked the question, “Does health-related information diffuse differentially among marginalized communities (Black and Latino) than it does among White communities?” We asked this question in the context of children’s use of antidepressants drugs before and after the Black Box Warnings were placed on the packaging; these warnings indicated a potential association between suicidal ideation and SSRI use in children and adolescents. We found that the warnings did appear to diffuse differentially among racial/ ethnic groups, as indicated by strikingly different rates of prescription use by White children in comparison with both Black and Latino children, before and after the warnings were issued. Dr. Cook and I are presently continuing to explore this research topic. He helped me communicate our findings for a culminating paper and presentation that I delivered alongside my Harvard Catalyst peers at Harvard’s Medical School, and helped me apply statistical principals in the Stata 10 software package. My learning process this summer was both challenging and fulfilling, and I am very appreciative of both the SCTRP program and the CMMHR staff for encouraging my potential.
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