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About Me

A bit about who I am and why I study what I do. 

 More Than a Scholar

I'm an academic, so I know some of you may be most interested in my educational background: 

   Ph.D. | Communication | University of Illinois at Urbana-                                                              Champaign

    M.A  | Communication | University of Illinois at Urbana-                                                              Champaign

    B.S.  | Biology, Psychology | University of North Carolina                                                            at Chapel Hill


l love being a health communication scholar, but it's also only part of who I am! I'm also:

  • a proud Carolina girl -  I was raised in North Carolina, I have watched UNC basketball from the age of 5, and I'm an alum of UNC.

  • someone who loves to go dancing

  • a crochet newbie

  • someone who loves mystery, sci-fi, and horror


My Journey to Grad School

I always tell my students that sometimes our paths aren't linear, but we often somehow wind up exactly where we are meant to be.

As an undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Heels!), I double majored in biology and psychology. I loved genetics; however, a summer in the lab mating fruit flies helped me see that maybe evolutionary biology wasn't my calling. By senior year, I wasn't sure what I could or should do with my degrees. I took breaks studying for finals by searching for jobs. I was fortunate to apply for and get a job being an Associate of Research for a research team at Duke University examining medical decision making.

[Yes, I know...a UNC grad at Duke? How dare I?! I always joke that I paid UNC (for my education), Duke paid me 😉. I've known amazing scholars at both institutions, but I'm a Carolina girl through and through!]

I was honored to spend three years working with and learning from amazing colleagues. During the last year and a half of that position, the team's work focused on doctor-patient interactions. It was then I realized that pursuing health communication allowed me to not only examine all the things that fascinated me but would also give me the theories and language to explain what I was noticing in these interactions.

So, I headed off to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue degrees in communication with a focus on health communication.  

Why Medical Mistrust?

While reading clinical encounters of men being given their prostate cancer diagnoses, I was particularly curious about physicians' responses to Black men inquiring about their increased risk of dying from prostate cancer. In some ways, I always knew that the intersections of health communication and race were my primary interests. 

In one of my first projects in graduate school, I ran focus groups aimed at understanding African Americans' perceptions of organ donation. I was struck by not only how much of the conversation was devoted to medical mistrust but also the ways in which it was discussed. It was different than the way I'd seen medical mistrust discussed in the communication literature, particularly in the context of organ donation. 

Black Americans consistently report higher levels of medical mistrust than their counterparts. This distrust in the motives of medical personnel and institutions is a barrier to engagement in a variety of health behaviors. Although much of the work on medical mistrust has focused in on the US Public Health Service Study on Tuskegee, medical mistrust is much broader than that. Some of my recent work, for instance, shows that news stories about racial discrimination influence medical mistrust.

Medical mistrust warrants investigation of its own. It's time to go beyond the US Public Health Service Study on Syphilis at Tuskegee and personal experiences. It is critical to think about the role of racist systems, including medicine, and how the messages we receive about those systems influence medical mistrust. My hope is to encourage health scholars to interrogate how we think about and measure medical mistrust. 

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