Research Projects


RWJ Learning Assessment

There is a breach between the need for diversity in U.S. biomedical faculty and the current reality as revealed by numbers from the National Institutes of Health. We aim to understand what works and what does not work in diversity and inclusion efforts in academic health sciences and other institutions involved in training health scientists. A team from the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital led by Dr. Maggie Alegria, Co-PI Dr. Debra Perez, and Dr. Idia Thurston at Texas A&M University have been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to conduct a learning assessment. We hope to explore the institutional, policy and systemic changes needed to make organizations and institutions more welcoming, diverse, inclusive, and equitable, and to inform future funding and ongoing programs to create and sustain change.

Leaders Igniting Generation Healing and Transformation (LIGHT) Study

The institute of medicine defines public health as ‘what society must do to keep people healthy.’ We agree but have found that the field often utilizes tools that rarely put people first, tools that are not often accessible, tools that may not resonate, and tools that are often denied, missed, or ignored. Dr. Idia Thurston is collaborating with Dr. Juliet Iwelunmor at Saint Louis University, and many others to establish a community of leaders working together to generate healing and transformation by centering people first in health. We created LIGHT as a go-to literary chronicle that seeks to identify and challenge practices that maintain health disparities and to create policies and practices that create equity for all people.

You can visit this link to learn more about LIGHT!

Teaching Health empowerment tools to combat Racism via Independent thinking, Values affirmation, and Ethnic Pride (THRIVE)

Racial discrimination is a known social determinant of health and a primary contributor to racial and ethnic health inequities. Ethnic identity, or the connection individuals have with their identified ethnic group, is a known protective factor associated with improved health outcomes. The CHANGE Lab was awarded a grant from APA Div 54 to examine the effects of two brief technology-supported interventions, aimed at promoting ethnic identity among BIPOC adolescents (ages 12-17) and young adults (ages 18-25) with self-reported health problems. The intervention and assessment tools are currently under development; active recruitment is ongoing.

STAR (Stimulating Training and Access to HIV Research experiences)

HIV-related disparities among underrepresented racial and ethnic minority (UREM) adolescents and young adults (AYA) exist not only in rates of diagnosis and access to prevention and treatment, but also in the makeup of the HIV research workforce; such that those who are most impacted are least represented. The Stimulating Training and Access to HIV Research Experiences (STAR) Institute is led by Saint Louis University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in collaboration with Georgia State University, Texas A&M, and Wake Forest University. The primary goal of STAR is to diversify the HIV research workforce and prepare UREM AYA for a career in the HIV field. We aim to recruit UREM AYA from the partner universities to receive training on implementation science and crowdsourcing techniques. These UREM will be part of a virtual learning community where they will receive mentorship, opportunities for grant funding, and engage in prevention research.

You can visit this link to learn more about STAR!

Coming Soon

Community Partners Assessment

To further our lab's mission in eliminating heath inequities, we are interested in engaging communities and community organizations to explore mental and physical health needs of youth and families in B/CS and Houston. We are currently reaching out, interviewing, and developing partnerships with community organizations. Our present focus is to develop a stronger understanding of the most prominent needs of local community organizations and their members, and opportunities for our lab to contribute to health and wellness needs. A few projects that have emerged from the assessment thus far include: partnering with Timothy Project to support youth via a holiday educational fundraiser, and developing a mental health coping toolkit.

Logo Coming Soon!

I-ARISE (Innovative Anti-Racism youth-driven Implementation Strategies for health Equity)

Black youth face substantial mental health and sleep-related disparities because of racism and related stressors. Dr. Idia Thurston is collaborating with Dr. Juliet Iwelunmor (Saint Louis University), Dr. Collins Airhihenbuwa (Georgia State University), and Dr. Joe Tucker (UNC Chapel Hill) and several other research and community partner teams to develop a transformative structured and sustainable pathway for Black youth and their local communities, traditionally underrepresented in implementation science research in the US, to design, implement, and evaluate innovative community-engaged antiracism interventions that addresses mental health, sleep, and overall well-being.

Completed Recruitment

The Stress in Obese Adolescents and their Resilience (SOAR) Study

Poor metabolic control puts teens with obesity at risk for a number of serious health complications. However, not all youth with obesity develop metabolic complications. Dr. Idia Thurston and Dr. Kathryn Howell were awarded an NIH grant (grant number: NIDDK R21DK113344) for this study examining differences in stress, stigma (weight- and race-based), and resilience among youth with and without obesity-related metabolic complications, in order to develop effective strategies for promoting metabolic health. Study is still recruiting individuals from Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis TN with plans to start a version of the project in Texas soon.

The Parenting Through Hardships (PaTH Kids) Study

Dr. Idia Thurston and Dr. Kathryn Howell were awarded an NIH grant (grant number: NICHD R15HD089410) for this study, which examines the relationship between youth resilience and maternal hardships (including: HIV/AIDS, substance use, relationship violence, and risky sexual behaviors). The PaTH Kids Study explores whether maternal mental and physical health affect the relationship between maternal hardships and children’s ability to handle adversity. Recruitment is completed for this study but data are still available.

The Identity Exploration Study (TIES)

What kinds of microaggressions do multi-racial individuals experience? What factors are associated with resilience in the context of microaggressions? Dr. Idia Thurston and Dr. Laura Marks led this study examining the relationships between racial/ethnic identity, microaggressions, and resilience among adolescents and adults aged 18-25 years old. Recruitment is completed for this study but data are still available.