2022 NIMH James Jackson Memorial Award Lecture: Dr. Karen D. Lincoln “The Making of a Black Mental Health Scholar: From Humble Beginnings to the Top Two Percent”
DR. LAWHORN: Good afternoon, good morning and perhaps good evening to each of you logging in with us today for the Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity 2022 Webinar Series. Today we have a special event, the James Jackson Memorial Award Lecture.
I am Collene Lawhorn. I am a program officer here at the National Institute of Mental Health in the Division of AIDS Research, and I am the Chair of the 2022 James Jackson Memorial Award Subcommittee. On behalf of our subcommittee, I am very pleased to welcome you all to our second annual memorial award ceremony and lecture.
The next few hours will be full of celebration and also full of learning. Before we get started, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Disparities Team under the esteemed leadership of Drs. Lauren Hill and Stacia Friedman-Hill. Lauren and Stacia, thank you so much for helping us to create a space at NIMH for all staff who have the shared passion to champion this important work.
I would also like to acknowledge our former Disparities Team lead, Crystal Barksdale, for being the impetus for this award, and, of course, our James Jackson Memorial Award Subcommittee. But I think we will do more thanks later. This could not have happened without each of you.
Now I am going to give some housekeeping notes. Participants have entered on mute and are in “listen only” mode, so your cameras are disabled. Participants may submit questions via the Q&A box and we will get to questions a little bit later in the talk and the ceremony. You can enter those questions at any time. Please address your question to the speaker and, as I mentioned, we will get to those towards the end.
If you are having any technical difficulties hearing or viewing the webinar, please note that in the Q&A box and our technical staff is standing by and can work with you to fix the problem. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All webinars in this series are being recorded and will be made available in the coming weeks. CEUs and certificates of attendance are not being offered for this webinar.
To kick things off, I am going to turn it over to our NIMH Director, Dr. Joshua Gordon, for opening remarks.
DR. GORDON: Thank you, Collene, and I also want to add my thanks to the hard-working folks at NIMH in both the Office of Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity and also to the subcommittee that worked on the James Jackson Memorial Award.
You are going to hear a lot more about our awardee and about Dr. Jackson, for whom the award is named in his honor, so I won't dwell too much on that. But I do want to talk to you a little bit about the genesis of the award, about how it reflects our renewed interest and growing interest in health disparities research, talk to you some about NIMH priorities, and then I will turn it over to Mauricio Rangel-Gomez to introduce the awarded Dr. Jackson.
Why are we here today? What are we celebrating, what are we recognizing? First, of course, we are recognizing in Dr. Karen Lincoln an outstanding health disparities researcher who also has a track record of mentoring individuals in this field in an outstanding way. We are recognizing Dr. James Jackson, a real leader and pioneer in mental health disparities research, and we are recognizing, as I mentioned, the importance of disparities research within the NIMH portfolio and within the mental health community, the importance of which cannot be understated.
We in the United States and really around the globe suffer from an inability and challenges in achieving equity in mental healthcare delivery, and the NIMH research portfolio must reflect these challenges. While of course we need to continue the outstanding work that we do in understanding mental illness and developing novel treatment, it is equally crucial that we continue our work to ensure the treatments we do have reach all of those who need them. We need to redouble our efforts to ensure that that research, implementation and services research, along with other areas of our research portfolio, are aimed at equity and justice within our community.
In order to do that, NIMH has a number of investments, aspirations and priorities. One of those is to support research that engages study populations from underrepresented, underserved and under-resourced communities really throughout our portfolio. That is from clinical studies to even basic genetic research and other efforts in clinical populations. But more importantly, we need to engage those communities and understand their needs and enlist them in helping us carry out our research mission.
Specific areas of particular interest are investigating ways to reduce suicide and suicidal behavior that is occurring in underserved and minoritized populations either at higher rates or with more rapid rates of increase in death and morbidity and mortality subsequent to suicide attempts and suicidal ideation.
We also need to support research that identifies the mechanisms of action contributing to persistent mental health disparities. Many of these mechanisms are indeed in social determinants of health, and so we need to expand our understanding of social determinants of mental health and the role they play in disparities and identify within these mechanisms modifiable targets to guide the development and testing of novel and optimized interventions.
And I would add that this is really an NIH-wide effort, and so NIMH has been very proud to participate in a Common Fund program that aims to use community engagement and community-based research to contribute to really novel approaches to reducing health disparities across the board and mental health disparities in particular.
Finally, another priority in this area is to advance implementation research that improves access to and utilization of quality, evidence-based care specifically in underserved, underrepresented and under-resourced populations. That research, as I alluded to earlier, needs to emphasize community-based interventions that incorporate multilevel decision-making perspectives from these communities.
This research is going to sound familiar when you hear about what our awardee has done, and it will sound familiar when you hear about Dr. Jackson, for whom the award is named. But I want to take just one more moment to say that this award recognizes, again, Dr. Lincoln, an outstanding scientist and outstanding mentor. It is really meant to demonstrate to the field and emphasize to the field NIMH’s commitment in this area.
With that, I will turn it over to Dr. Mauricio Rangel-Gomez who will give us a background of Dr. Jackson’s work and pave the way for the award.
DR. RANGEL-GOMEZ: Thank you so much. The James Jackson Memorial Award was established in the fall of 2020, as was mentioned, after the passing of Dr. James S. Jackson. Dr. Jackson was a preeminent leader in the research of mental health disparities and race in America. His tremendous work dismantled barriers and lifted class ceilings for black psychologists and revolutionized the field for understanding the challenges and issues within the black community and about minority, particularly black mental health.
Amongst many contributions, he pioneered the National Survey of Black Americans, and the International Survey of American Life that changed the way the field examined and understood black life and mental health in the United States. He started his career in 1962 at Michigan State University. Over his illustrious career he earned many awards including the University of Michigan’s first distinguished diversity scholar career award, which was then renamed in his honor; the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award for Distinguished Career Contributions in Applied Psychology, and a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association.
He was also elected to the Institute of Medicine and was the W.E.B. Dubois fellow from the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and a fellow from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and served on multiple advisory boards, including the National Institutes of Health.
In relation to his illustrious research career and, very importantly, Dr. Jackson was a strong advocate for the training and support of minority students and was mentor to many, exhibiting a strong passion for supporting young minority researchers pursuing a scientific degree. In fact, at the 1969 Convention of the American Psychological Association, he and other black psychologists took over the podium during the presidential address to call for improved training in racial and ethnic minority care for racial and ethnic minority students.
The James S. Jackson Memorial Award was designed to honor this outstanding researcher who demonstrated exceptional individual achievements and leadership in mental health disparities research, and excellence in mentorship, influence, and support of trainees. I am honored to introduce him and to introduce our next guest, Dr. Toni Antonucci, Dr. Jackson’s wife.
Dr. Antonucci is the Douvan Collegiate Professor of Psychology, Director and Research Professor in the Life Course Development Program at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on social relations and health; physical, psychological, and cognitive functioning across the lifespan. Dr. Antonucci studies all types of social relations including close social relations, peer and family relations, caregiving and social media, and especially how social relations influence or are influenced by health.
Current research includes an ongoing lifespan longitudinal study that begun in 1992 which is now exploring how social relations influence cognitive functioning including Alzheimer’s disease. She is interested in family multigenerational relations, child, and adult development.
Further, Professor Antonucci has conducted comparative studies in social relations and health in the United States, Mexico, Europe, the Middle East, and Japan. She is the past President of the Gerontology Society of America, a recipient of the GSA Distinguished Career Contribution to Gerontology Award, and immediate Past Secretary General of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics. She is also recipient of Division 20’s mentor award, the Baltes Distinguished Research Achievement Award.
Professor Antonucci enjoys working with multidisciplinary teams, especially including early, mid and senior scientists. She has led several early career scholars programs nationally and internationally, including a current ongoing program for South Africa. It is an honor for me to introduce her. The mic is yours, Professor Antonucci.
DR. ANTONUCCI: Thank you, Dr. Rangel-Gomez. I apologize for that long intro. We want to be spending our time talking about James, but let me say thank you to NIMH for creating this award, to the committee for contributing their time to choose this year’s awardee, and finally for the opportunity to say a few words about James.
Frankly, it was a little hard to decide what to say, but I thought I would give you a little bit of background, the kind that is not in the usual bio or CV, and which might give you some insight into the kinds of things that motivated James, what drove him to do the work that he did.
To begin, James S. Jackson was classically trained as a social psychologist. His early work was experimental, actually animal experiments, and he liked to say that he quit that line of work when one of his rats bit him, and then he switched over to human experimental research and he did a lot of attribution studies with college students. So that is kind of a classical background for a psychologist during that era.
He was a proud product of the public education system, and I want to talk about this because too often we think we are not good enough if we didn’t go to fancy schools, and how are we going to make a contribution. But I want to tell you a little bit about his background, so you know that needn’t hold us up but also that we need to really invest in public education.
He went to local schools. He grew up in a suburb of Detroit, and he had many fond memories of that school but realized only later in life that it was amazing that he actually learned to read. Apparently his teachers remembered him as the kid who had an uncanny ability to nap in class. Those of you who knew him as an adult know that that was a lifelong gift. He could nap at the drop of a hat, and I was always jealous.
From the local Detroit area public schools he went to MSU, as was previously mentioned. And since his only academic job post-degree was at University of Michigan, you can imagine how much ribbing he took for being an MSU grad, but it was always a good-natured ribbing. It’s a big rivalry for those of you who don’t know the UM-MSU rivalry. It’s a big deal to the locals.
It will probably be no surprise to learn that he was the first in his family to go to college, although his mother had a strong commitment to education and was herself, through hard work under difficult circumstances, a licensed practical nurse. She worked in the psychiatric hospital known as Eloise -- for those of you who are local you know that it has quite a history -- and it was probably through his mother’s work at Eloise that he first became interested in psychology.
When he arrived at MSU he got an inkling that he may not be as prepared as others, when on the first day of his social psych class he was looking over the psych textbook, which he was very impressed with, and the student sitting next to him said, oh, this is no big deal; we used this book in my high school AP class. Needless to say, James had no high school AP class in his background.
From MSU, he got a master’s degree from the University of Toledo and then a PhD from Wayne State, which is where I met him. At the time, he was the president of the psychology graduate student association, and he was assigned with the task of welcoming new grad students. I was a new grad student and he welcomed me that day and we have been together for 51 years.
Some of the times were lean. As graduate students, I remember one time having so little money that we took out the seats of our car to scrounge money to get enough to go to the movies. Later in life, when we had more money, we would laugh at the times when we would happily have walked miles not to pay $2.00 or $3.00 for a parking fee; whereas, as old people we would beg people to take $20.00 to park closer so we wouldn’t have to walk too far to the venue. I mention this only to encourage people who are struggling through their student and early career lean times that there is hope and hopefully such times won’t last.
He always appreciated the quality of his higher education, and it is for this reason, I believe, he remained committed to working in public rather than private universities. I am mentioning this as a shout-out to our commitment to public education which he would argue we need more of, not less of, if we are going to meet the challenges we face and benefit from the contributions of all.
Most of you know James for his research on race and ethnicity, racism, and health and aging among African Americans. He had a firm sense of pride in what black Americans achieve, not just high-profile black Americans but also everyday folks. He believed it is important to recognize how many obstacles black people had to deal with. I think it was recognition of the uniqueness of the everyday black experience that made him a champion of studying the diversity of black folks’ experiences; that is, we need to study different experiences, histories, causes and consequences of African Americans -- not in comparison to whites, but uniquely as a population of interest.
This was a tough battle to fight because most folks always wanted him to add a white comparison group. Sometimes he did and sometimes he did not, but he loved to ask the question of those who wanted him to add that white comparison: how come every study of whites was not required to add a black control or comparison group. As I am sure many of you know, this is not a battle that’s over. It is still being fought.
But James likes to have his arguments based on science and good, high-quality data. We all know that it is now widely recognized that any topic should include multiple groups, not just men, as was true in the early days of psychological experiments, when they only did men because women were too complicated and created noise in the data. Or not just college students or not just whatever, pick your favorite example -- people from the North, the South, the East, or West, high-income, low-income.
He had a fundamental curiosity that was a joy to behold. No matter what the question, what your interest, what the problem or issue was, he fundamentally wanted to understand your perspective. That didn’t mean he would always agree, but he thought it important to understand where people were coming from.
One of the most important lessons I learned from him is that you learn a lot, you learn the most, from people who disagree with you. Ask your enemies to explain or defend their positions. That is critical to understanding and potentially working together and moving forward. Trust me when I say he could talk to anybody with curiosity and respect, even when they were crazy, hostile and/or obnoxious, and he ran into a lot of those.
I would also like to mention that James was strongly committed to giving back both as a local and national leader, so he accepted many leadership positions. It wasn’t so much that he aspired to these roles, but more that he felt an obligation to make a difference at multiple levels.
But perhaps one of his most heartfelt commitments was as an African American scientist himself to train the next generation, and the generation after that. He knew that was the only way to make and maintain the changes that are needed in understanding the mental health of minority populations, and to address their needs in both the basic and applied levels, and also to contribute to the broader understanding of these issues for all populations.
While James had a lot of energy and an incredible curiosity, he never felt that he had a blueprint for what others should do. His belief was that people should advance the science they care about and make sure they did the best job they could do at whatever they chose to focus on, but also to give back whenever and however they could. As I hear myself saying this, I sound like I’m preaching. He would never do that. He never thought it was his job to tell other people what to do.
Another strong commitment of James’s was to advance both real science and real-world issues. I think James would be both embarrassed by and pleased with this award being named after him, but I also believe he would be very pleased that Karen Lincoln is a recipient of this award. As many of you already know, Karen is a graduate of University of Michigan, and I like to think that the outstanding work she is doing now affecting the real and everyday lives of older Black Americans was inspired by her experience at Michigan and, hopefully, her interactions with James then and over the years.
It is my pleasure to personally congratulate Karen as the recipient of this award, the James Jackson Memorial Award. Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts with you.
DR. VAN’T VEER: Thank you so much, Dr. Antonucci, for sharing those personal stories with us and Dr. Jackson’s experiences that motivated his research and leadership.
Now it is my honor to introduce the 2022 winner of the James Jackson Memorial Award, Dr. Karen Lincoln. Dr. Lincoln is an Associate Professor in the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California, Senior Scientist at the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, Director of the USC Harford Academic Center of Excellence in Geriatric Social Work, and founder and Chair of the USC Advocates for African American Elders.
Dr. Lincoln completed master’s degrees in social work and sociology from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, which you just heard, and then went on to earn a PhD in social work and sociology from the University of Michigan in the Program for Research on Black Americans, and there, Dr. Jackson, the founder and leader of this program, was among one of her mentors.
Dr. Lincoln’s research focuses broadly on the social, psychosocial, behavioral, biological and public health factors related to mental health disparities across the lifespan, and she has served as the principal investigator on several NIH-funded and non-federal grants exploring these issues. She is an active public scholar who has published more than 70 articles and book chapters on social stress, aging and health disparities, and she has creatively applied her interdisciplinary training as a social worker and sociologist to pioneer research on heterogeneity in diverse communities and identify factors that both harm and promote mental health and wellbeing among black Americans.
Along with her notable research accomplishments she is also an aging advocate and has established and led robust efforts in Los Angeles to support the needs of African American seniors. She is a Gerontological Society of America fellow, a Hartford Faculty Scholar, an Encore Public Voices Fellow, and a Next Avenue Influencer in Aging, all of this in recognition of her impactful research and thought leadership in this area.
Dr. Lincoln is also an invaluable mentor who has made a deep and long-lasting impact on the scientific careers of her trainees. As one noted in her nomination package, quote, “Her mentorship has profoundly inspired me, and as a junior faculty member I strive to emulate the commendable example set by her.”
Dr. Lincoln’s webinar today is titled, “The Making of a Black Mental Health Scholar: From Humble Beginnings to the Top Two Percent” as recently, she was named among the top 2 percent of scientists in the world for 2021 based on citation indicators by Elsevier and Stanford University.
Dr. Lincoln, thank you for joining us today to discuss your research as well as your life experiences that shaped your prolific career in disparities research and advocacy. And congratulations on receiving the 2022 James Jackson Memorial Award.
DR. LINCOLN: Thank you so much, Ashlee. I know I have remarks reserved at the end, so I just want to start off by making a few remarks. Actually one, I want to thank Toni Antonucci for setting the stage for me and talking about James in the beginning. That is pretty much how I fashioned this presentation.
I just want to talk about how I frame my research questions. It’s very much influenced by lived experiences -- pretty much like James -- what I observe, my connection to my community, all of which are supported by my training and mentoring that I received at PRBA, the Program for Research on Black Americans, when I was training at the University of Michigan and well beyond that point.
What does it take to make a black mental health scholar? Many of us come to know academic scholars by our work, by who we have become, the person that we see before us, the person that you see before you. But, oftentimes you also get to know us through our publications, through our professional meetings and presentations, and our CV that summarizes our work. All of these pieces of data are really important for understanding who we are, but it is not really enough to understand how we have become who we are, who was involved, what it actually took, the choices and decisions that we made, the challenges and the opportunities, the beginning. And that is where I would like to start.
Here is what some people will see when they think about me -- Google scholar, the number of citations, the fact that I was ranked among the 2 percent of scientists, etcetera, but really this doesn’t really capture what it took to become this person, so I want to take you back to the beginning.
These are my parents, my sister and me. I guess you can figure out who is me. My mother was one of 11 children. She was born in a very small town, Baldwin, Louisiana. Currently there are about 1800 people in that town. My father was born in Orange, Texas and raised in Austin. They met in Sacramento, where my sister and I were born.
My father served in a segregated Army. He later worked as a barber and then a computer operator. I was a daddy’s girl and a little bit of a tomboy. I liked to climb trees and mow the lawn with him and collect worms. He always thought he wanted a boy and treated me as such. I often slept at his feet in a sleeping bag underneath his desk when he worked the graveyard shift because I just didn’t want to be away from him. My parents divorced when I was nine and then I lived with my mother after that.
My father had a number of health complications including diabetes in his forties. He ultimately lost one of his legs due to amputation. He had vision impairment which ended his career as a barber, which is the thing he loved the most. He also had other health problems including stroke, congestive heart failure, end-stage renal failure and depression.
My dad died in a very low-quality nursing home. Even though his doctor said that he could be cared for at home, he didn’t want his daughters to take care of him. I wrote about my dad in an Op Ed that I published in The Wall Street Journal, to talk about the importance of long-term care, particularly planning for it, something that my dad didn’t do and something that I learned a lot about during his demise. He didn’t do that when he was healthy, and many of us don’t do that when we’re healthy.
I also wrote to highlight the importance for minorities with respect to being forced into nursing homes, because many of us don’t have the option. I wrote about this in The New York Times, hopefully encouraging people to really think about the lack of options for long-term care for many minorities.
This is Crescent Park. It’s an affordable housing community in Richmond, California, where I lived with my mother from fifth grade through high school. This community was developed by EAH Housing, one of the largest nonprofit housing development and management organizations in the United States.
Here is an article that featured Alaina Bull. She is an anti-violence advocate who conducts active shooting drills for children in the playground in Crescent Park, where gun violence is inevitable. You can see pictures here. She will make loud gunshot noises, the children will run, they will learn how to hide. The picture below is a memorial to another antigun violence advocate who was actually murdered in Richmond. That is where I lived.
We didn’t have a middle school or a high school in our neighborhood, so we were bused to El Cerrito High School. El Cerrito is a neighboring city. This is El Cerrito High, the picture on the left. The top picture is what it looked like when I was a student there, and the picture below is what it looks like now.
I dropped out of high school in 10th grade. I was out of high school, just hanging out for about a year or so. When I returned about a year later, my high school counselor, Mrs. Burkhalter, who you see here, was very angry at me. I was generally a good student, so she went ahead and put me in the 11th grade, which was the grade I was supposed to be in, and she threatened me that if I didn’t get a 3.5 GPA at the end of the semester, she would put me back in the 10th grade and force me to complete it. I completed 11th grade with a 4.0, and ultimately, I was the only African American in my class to graduate with honors from my high school.
But shortly after I came back to high school, Mrs. Burkhalter asked me what college I was going to and I told her I wasn’t going to college, and she almost had a heart attack. She couldn’t believe that I didn’t have plans for college and that I wasn’t encouraged to go to college, and so she changed all my classes. As Toni mentioned about James, we probably had AP classes, I don’t know, I don’t believe I was in any, I wasn’t in any, so I don’t even know if they had them. But I had classes like typing and business math and things like that, so she changed all those classes to advanced algebra and Spanish, courses that would allow me to apply to college.
She told me also that I would need to meet with a college advisor, who was coming every Friday from UC Berkely who was helping students with their application, and I agreed to meet with the advisor every Friday. She told me I had to take the SAT. I didn’t know what that was. She told me when I had to take it and how much it would cost. I asked my parents for the money, and they refused. But my mom did give me $1.00 a day for lunch, so I found the date of the SAT and I counted backwards 55 days, and I saved my lunch money every day to pay for my SAT.
Mrs. Burkhalter kind of knew I was hungry. I would just conveniently stop in her office every day around snack time or lunchtime, and she always shared her lunch with me.
I went to UC Berkely, as an undergrad, I majored in sociology and minored in African American studies. You see the Campanile, the clock here, the beloved and well-known symbol of the UC Berkley campus.
I dropped out of college after a year, because I didn’t have the money to pay for it. In the distance here you see the Golden Gate Bridge. I actually worked full time on the Golden Gate Bridge for three years, until I could get a permanent shift to apply to go back to UC Berkley. After three years, I did go back to UC Berkely. I worked graveyard 10:00 pm to 6:00 am. My first class was at 9:00 o’clock, and I slept about two, two and one-half hours a day before I went to class, until I graduated. I graduated from UC Berkely with honors as well, and I lived in Oakland while I was attending UC Berkely.
I lived here. My mom sort of put me out for a while, and I ended up living here. Someone, a very wonderful, Brenda Bailey, took me in and I lived here at Keller Plaza while I attended UC Berkely. It’s a low-income apartment complex in North Oakland, and I lived there with her, her son, my boyfriend at the time, and his younger brother. I felt very safe and loved and supported and I went to school every day and I went to work every day, as most working students would do.
However, from the outside, one might question why I would feel so safe living in Keller Plaza. Here you see a story posted in The LA Times. It was actually posted during the time I was at UC Berkely; and it’s about a drug kingpin named Rudolph Henderson -- we called him Rudy. He was arrested for conspiracy to sell cocaine. He actually rose to prominence when a previous kingpin went to prison, Felix Mitchell, and there are lots of stories about Felix. Rudy had ties to the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia, and, interestingly enough, most of the young men that lived in the apartment complex with me worked for Rudy, and I saw them every day. But they walked me to my car, they walked me to the bus stop, they made sure that I was safe coming and going.
Rudy was killed in North Oakland at a very popular restaurant, one that we were quite familiar with, and of course it was written up in various news media. The restaurant was called Lois the Pie Queen. It is still there, it’s located here, and this is Keller Plaza where I lived, it’s about five blocks away. This whole community was pretty much influenced by Rudy and the people who worked for him, and this is where I lived, and where I thrived, and I went to school again and worked.
My path to academia and this moment, in terms of receiving this award even, was not straightforward. It was just one of the many paths that ultimately led to the Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan.
I added my lived experiences and perspectives to those that were already part of PRBA, including James. We all brought our stories with us and told them back to the world through a research lens. My lived experience, along with the collective experiences of black Americans, informed my scholarly work, the questions I asked, how I framed them, my approach to examining these questions.
In general, my approach is strengths-based, both as a sociologist and a social worker. Instead of just documenting differences, I try to explain them. As Dr. Gordon was talking about, sort of understanding the mechanisms that link certain aspects of our social environment like racism and discrimination; much like what James Jackson did, to highlight the differences in the black population and to demonstrate heterogeneity, to find those risks and protective factors, which can be really important intervention entrée points. The things that we do in spite of or because of our circumstances that allow us not just to survive but to thrive. This is what I learned at PRBA and this is part of James Jackson’s legacy.
This is Dr. James Jackson, world-renowned scholar, and I would just like to add a little to what Dr. Gomez talked about and what Toni Antonucci talked about as well. We know he is a world-renowned scholar who transformed the way we think about and study black Americans.
Thomas Parham wrote about James in a piece published in Science, and said, quote: “His study of black communities contributed a host of insights into family composition, education, health status and outcomes, aging, violence in the community, religious and spirituality practices, health-giving and health-seeking behaviors, law enforcement and policing, and experiences with racism. He reframed the discourse of people of African descent, giving black people a voice on black mental health.”
Among many of James’ accomplishments was his founding of PRBA in 1976, and I had the tremendous blessing of being trained at PRBA for seven years, the entire time that I spent at the University of Michigan. In a very recent conversation with the Vice Chancellor, he described PRBA has an HBCU, with resources, on a public campus; and, I certainly agree with that characterization.
In founding and directing PRBA and in the work we did there, James and the PRBA family made a bold statement: that life experiences of African Americans are worthy of study in and of themselves. We don’t need to be compared to anyone else. There is more than enough to learn about in our own lived experiences to inform policy, practice, and research.
In addition to a tremendous culture of mentoring and rigorous world class research, I was surrounded by renowned scholars in social work, sociology, political science, medicine, psychology, social psychology, anthropology, and public health who were all dedicated to one thing: advancing the understanding of the lives of black Americans. That’s it. That’s the mission. That is what I was trained to do and that is pretty much what I have been doing for the entirety of my 20 years in academia.
Now I would like to share a few findings from my work, which I hope will demonstrate my contribution to the field of mental health disparities, as well as why and how I ask questions. Because I was trained to examine questions using an interdisciplinary lens, I understand that mental health and wellness among black Americans is connected to a variety of factors, including: social relationships, social stress, chronic health conditions, obesity, accelerated aging, Alzheimer’s disease, literacy and a host of environmental, social, behavioral and biological factors.
But first I must acknowledge my mentors, in addition to James -- Dr. Robert Joseph Taylor and Dr. Linda Chatters. To fully acknowledge them would be a whole other talk; but, I just want to acknowledge them for supporting me as a human being, as a scholar, as a black woman and acknowledge the fact that because of their mentorship, they have really left an indelible impression on my life and can take a lot of credit for the fact that I am here today.
Throughout my career I have received funding primarily from NIH to support my research. I got a K01, actually from NIMH, some years ago; and, as a student I received a diversity supplement. As a graduate student, as a research assistant, I have had R01s, and all of this has supported my work focusing on social and psychological factors in health and mental health outcomes.
Most of my work, from my very early years as a researcher up until now has examined the dual nature of social relationships. Findings from this work have consistently demonstrated the importance of examining the complexity of social connections within the context of health and wellbeing, and Dr. Antonucci’s work has certainly led the field in this regard.
One example of this work is a study that was published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. This study was the first to examine positive and negative social relationships and mental health disorders in older African Americans, and it was one of the first studies that was published using our brand-new National Survey of American Lives data.
This study used data from the NSAL. One of the things I wanted to note here is that most of the research talks about the relationship between social support or positive aspects of social relationships and mental health, but you will see here that there was no relationship of emotional support to mood disorders, anxiety disorders or the number of mood and anxiety disorders among older African Americans. However, negative interaction was associated with these disorders.
This is just an example of my work in terms of being able to show that it is very important to disentangle the positive aspects of support from the negative aspects of support, and even though negative interactions do not occur with the same level of frequency as positive interactions, they have a much more potent impact on our mental health.
This study used data from the Health and Retirement Study to examine the relationship between social network diversity and cognitive status in middle-aged and older African Americans. Social network diversity has been linked to cognitive status in older adults and is often operationalized by the proportion or distribution of social roles represented within one’s social network. So, do you have mostly friends in your network, do you have mostly family in your network, or some combination of these social roles?
When the proportion or ratio of social roles is used to measure social network diversity, the additive effect of social roles is often unrecognized. That is, what is the benefit of having friends and family and coworkers and neighbors, etcetera?
In this study we focused on African Americans -- which in and of itself is a contribution to the field – also because African Americans have one of the highest risks of cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I also wanted to demonstrate the heterogeneity and diversity of social networks among African Americans, by measuring social networks in a different way than what we traditionally do.
Using latent class analysis, we identified three social network types: friend-focused, diverse, and restricted. I again have to thank Toni Antonucci for using the same terminology in her work, so I used and paid homage to that as well and named these network types similarly.
It is really important to note here that neither the diverse nor the restricted network types were associated with cognitive status, and this is what usually the literature tells us, that the more diverse your networks are the higher your cognitive status; the more restricted your networks are the lower the level of cognitive status or cognitive health, and that is not what we found.
But what is also important to note with these findings is that there is still some diversity within these network types. Even though, one network type in particular was associated with cognitive status, and that was the friend-focused network type, where people who have more friends in their network tend to have better cognitive status, each of these types still included friends, children, and family. So, it is really important to examine all the diversity, because even though a friendship network type promoted the best cognitive status among older black Americans in this sample, they still had supported interactions with their children and with their family. So, we really do need to look at the complete social network to really understand the impact of social relationships on cognitive status among African Americans, and all groups in general.
In addition to examining the complexity of social relationships, I also examined within-group variation among black Americans to highlight, again, the heterogeneity within the population. This study was published in Social Science and Medicine, and it includes African Americans and Caribbean blacks. In this study I really wanted to contribute to the literature that was consistently reporting high levels of depressive symptoms in African Americans by exploring a wider population of black Americans including Caribbean blacks.
There are also conflicting findings that said that some African Americans have fewer depressive symptoms and some studies that said they were no different than whites, but I really wanted to show that maybe all of those findings were actually true.
Again, I used the National Survey of American Life data -- this was actually from my dissertation -- to show how there might be different subpopulations in the data. As you can see here, there are actually two different populations in the data; by using latent class analysis and we can actually see that. You see the yellow line are the groups of African Americans and Caribbean blacks that have high symptoms, and the red line are the groups of African American and Caribbean blacks that had low symptoms. There was no difference in terms of ethnicity with respect to which group people were in, but you can see on the top for the high symptoms group what the characteristics of that group are, and for the low symptoms group what the characteristics of that group look like.
For example, for high symptoms, lower SES, there are more women but there are still men, so it’s more women than men but there are still men in that group. They tended to have higher levels of negative interaction with their social networks, lower levels of social support. Those who reported low symptoms tended to be older, although there were younger people in that group as well. There were more men but still women. They had lower levels of negative interaction and reported higher levels of racial discrimination, which was really important for me to dig a little bit deeper. Because with this group, the lower symptoms, they tended to have higher SES, but they were also reporting higher levels of racial discrimination than the other group.
Just untangling that a bit, as you can see with these white dots, the group that were reporting low levels of depressive symptoms were reporting higher levels of experiencing racial discrimination in work, not being hired for an unfair reason, in their neighborhoods, the neighbors made life hard, and with respect to service, bad service.
We can see here -- and James did a lot of this work -- to really show that despite high levels of income, high levels of education, many African Americans are still experiencing racial discrimination, albeit it may be in different domains, but high SES does not protect you from experiencing these types of assaults.
Sometimes I respond to studies to challenge findings because I just have another perspective, or I just completely disagree. This was one of those studies. There was a study that I was responding to that reported that black girls don’t benefit from physical activity as much as white girls. There was a study that looked at African-American girls and white girls at one point in time when they were younger, similar weight, similar levels of physical activity, and then examined them later on in life and showed that there was a very large percentage of African-American girls who were overweight. And they concluded that physical activity was not as important or effective for black girls. I definitely disagreed with that. I think it’s a bad message to send, and so I did my own study.
What I showed using African American Caribbean black and white women was that physical activity was, in fact, important and very useful for black women. African American women, in particular, not Caribbean black women, not white women. But physical activity actually reduced in this case body mass index or obesity among black women who were experiencing high levels of stress. Didn’t do much for those who were experiencing lower levels of chronic stress, but it certainly was effective for those who were experiencing high levels of stress, and this is a buffering effect. The same is true for depressive symptoms. Black women who were experiencing higher levels of stress, who were engaged in physical activity, actually had reduced levels of depressive symptoms. For those who were experiencing low levels of stress, physical activity had no effect.
As we now know and as we have known for some time, sleep is associated with a host of health and mental health outcomes. Sleep is sort of getting a lot more attention these days during the Covid pandemic and so I wanted to look at sleep. African Americans happen to have the poorest sleep quality in the United States. I also wanted to do something a little different and look at Caribbean blacks, specifically Caribbean blacks who were born in the Caribbean and then later immigrated to the United States at some point in their lives.
This just shows you the sleep profile of Caribbean blacks. The blue line is poor sleepers and you can see with the various types of sleep indicators what that profile looks like compared to good sleepers. This, again, is contributing to the literature, sort of disentangling African Americans from Caribbean blacks because, in fact, while black American or African Americans, which is how it usually is reported, do have poor sleep in the aggregate, clearly there are many of us, particularly Caribbean blacks, who have high-quality sleep. And I think there is a lot to be learned from those who are sleeping well. Those are the sort of intervention protective factors that we want to be able to identify within-group, not comparing them to another group.
My work also focuses on the effects of racial discrimination at the cellular level. This is the work that was mentioned earlier by Ashlee in terms of the biology. My colleagues and I published a second study to document the association between racial discrimination and cellular aging. My co-author on the first study is actually Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for co-discovering telomerase, an enzyme. Telomerase is the enzyme that replenishes the telomere, which is a biomarker for cellular aging.
This study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, and I really wanted to contribute to this literature by not just documenting that African Americans have accelerated aging, that we age faster than whites, but to identify are there any mediating factors or mechanisms that might be able to slow that down. This is when I introduced social relationships, my work looking at social relationships.
What I found here is that social support, sort of the positive aspects, was not really associated with telomere length in the way that we thought about it; it was actually in the opposite direction. I explained that by, you know, oftentimes the more engaged we are, it could be that we have more interactions with our family members or our social networks in response to health crises or in response to some health concerns, and so maybe we have shorter telomeres, which is sort of critical and suggests some compromised health, because we need it. But the findings were sort of in a different direction.
But one thing that is really important to note here is that negative interaction did shorten telomeres, so the shorter your telomeres the more critical, and it was true for both black and whites. The slope was a little bit steeper for African Americans, which might suggest the more accelerated aging process, but these findings do show that ambivalent relationships are actually healthy for us. Previously reported literature shows that if you have high levels of positive and negative interactions with your networks, it compromises your mental health and it compromises you health. That is not true in this sample. Actually, these ambivalent relationships actually promoted longer telomeres, which is quite interesting and something to be explored in the future.
As a follow-up to this study, I wanted to understand the interplay between race, health and psychosocial factors, I wanted to explore how these factors actually work together, biological factors, psychosocial factors, to really understand different profiles with respect to telomere length in particular. And this is in response to some studies that show that people who experience acute, high levels of stress have longer telomere length, which is sort of counter-intuitive; so, I thought maybe there are different populations in the data, so let’s delve into that to find out if, in fact, you could have longer telomere lengths and be healthy and shorter telomere lengths and be healthy. Maybe there are just different populations in the data.
What you see here is that there are, in fact, interesting populations. The one thing that I want you to pay attention to is there are two risk profiles. There is one that has shorter telomeres, and that is really the marker for cellular aging. It’s the red line where you see STL, salivary telomere length, and the blue line. Both of these groups have shorter telomere lengths, but one is primarily defined by psychosocial stress; the other is primarily defined by health. And it just so happens that the African Americans are more likely to be in that risk group that is primarily characterized by psychosocial stress. Low levels of social support, high levels of negative interaction, high levels of racial discrimination and early life adversities. It really highlights the impact of psychosocial stressors on our bodies biologically, at the biological level, which can potentially contribute to accelerated aging among African Americans specifically.
We know that neighborhood characteristics are important. I just want to talk a little bit about this study. The first author is Ann Nguyen, who is a mentee, postdoc I believe, who nominated me for this award as well, and we wanted to show how neighborhood characteristics might impact us underneath the skin.
These are the findings. We basically found that neighborhood characteristics, physical disadvantage, really didn’t lead to inflammation in older black Americans, but if you look at hopelessness and pessimism, how people felt about their neighborhood, we actually saw some results. Older African Americans who had more positive views of their neighborhood had less inflammation than African Americans who had more sort of negative views about their neighborhood, who felt more hopeless or felt more pessimistic.
And this is really along the lines of what Dr. Jackson does with respect to social psychology, looking at those psychological variables to show that, despite the objective reality in terms of living in certain neighborhoods, how you perceive your neighborhood has very important implications for your health and your mental health as well.
Finally, this is the most recent issue of the Journal of Aging. This is a special issue dedicated to the life and legacy of James Jackson, and I was very fortunate to be able to contribute to this study. There are thousands of people who could have contributed to this special issue, and I was chosen and I am very honored to be able to do that. I worked with Ann Nguyen again, my mentee, and we wanted to look at the effect of race, ethnicity and age, and social relationships on obesity. I won’t go over the findings too much, but I did want to highlight the fact that we found some really important results.
The first is that we found that African Americans have a higher body mass index, BMI, than whites, which is not unusual. But there was no difference between Caribbean blacks and whites in terms of BMI, so that is a really important thing to note when we aggregate Caribbean blacks and African Americans and report these higher levels of obesity. We are sort of missing the mark. Caribbean blacks were very similar to whites with respect to their BMI.
The other thing I want to note is, as you can see in Figure 1, we found that white respondents who received more emotional support from their families had a lower BMI, but this was not the case for Caribbean blacks. It was the opposite. We explained that using a number of cultural explanations, which again, I want to highlight that sometimes if we are going to look at ethnicity and race, we need to be able to explain differences with cultural variables. We used some cultural explanations to explain that difference, and that is one of the things that I wanted to highlight here.
Finally, in Figure 3 on the right it shows differences between social support and BMI by race, ethnicity, and age. We can see that different ages, different ethnicities, African Americans who are middle-aged, Caribbean blacks who are younger and whites who are older tend to have a higher BMI with higher levels of social support from their families. So again, this just shows the intersectionality within populations, how important it is to examine that, and to examine the within-group differences.
Now I want to turn quickly to talk about Advocates for African American Elders, AAAE. This is the work that I do in the community, and it really is inspired by the work I did at PRBA, trying to create something familiar here at USC. I founded this program, a health education program, in 2012. Here are some members that are representing the different organizations that you see here. The whole goal was to increase the level of health education and access to resources to underserved older African Americans and their families in south Los Angeles. During our inaugural introduction to the south Los Angeles community, we asked Maxine Waters to give our keynote speech and she did that.
This is one of the first studies that I did being a trained survey researcher. I applied for funding from the California Wellness Foundation and one of the first things I did was take a survey of African Americans. It took about four and one-half months, and we were able to get 550 African American adults 50 and older across Los Angeles County to share their experiences about services in their neighborhoods and a host of other issues that we examined.
This is a map that we used, the racial dot map. There is a new one if anyone is interested based on the 2020 Census. This one is based on the 2000 Census. The green dots represent African Americans in the Los Angeles area, orange dots are Latino, blue dots are white, red dots are Asian. We went to areas that were highly concentrated with African Americans as well as areas where there was sort of less diversity in some of the neighborhoods to capture a wide representative sample of African Americans.
Here are some of the findings. I don’t have time to go over all of them, but this is just enough to show that we did ask a lot of questions about computer literacy and health and isolation and social relationships and mental health, etcetera. This finding was really important for us because, at the time, there was a new healthcare transition that was happening as part of the demonstration project, and we were really concerned about this because the law had been passed and people were getting ready to be passively enrolled into this new healthcare transition plan. And many African Americans had not heard about it, but many people who were not African American had heard about it. There was a lot of education going on in other communities, and so we decided to educate our own communities about this.
We did a number of talk shows. This shows you the flyers, how we target our work to African American communities. We hold them in communities that are local, so people have easy access to them.
On the right you will see an issue brief. We were asked to co-author this with Justice in Aging as a result of our talk shows, to show how we engage hard-to-reach communities and talk about really difficult healthcare transitions and make it relatable and easy to understand. The one on the right is an issue brief that I wrote, using data from our community survey, to really highlight the importance of community programs for African Americans who want to be able to remain in the community and not go into nursing homes.
I founded Advocates for African American Elders really to increase health education in communities in south Los Angeles specifically, and as a result of that we go out -- and we are social workers as well. I am the only academic. Everyone is coming from the community. And we take a lot of calls and try to connect people to resources and help as we can.
We started to get a lot of calls from people about Alzheimer’s disease, concerns about themselves and their family and so we started to switch some of our health education to Alzheimer’s education. This shows you that Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, but you can see disparities here with respect to African Americans and whites where the difference is much higher in terms of Alzheimer’s risk for African Americans as we get older.
We do know that Alzheimer’s disease knowledge is really important for recognizing symptoms and help-seeking and cognitive testing, but I found that African Americans have really low levels of Alzheimer’s disease knowledge. We also know that African Americans, with respect to literacy, have generally low levels of literacy. You can see proficient literacy is 2 percent, and that is college level, so you have a very large population of African Americans who have basic and below basic literacy, reading levels, which makes it really hard to understand some of the health-promoting information that’s available.
Most of the information is on the internet, but we know that just 62 percent of African Americans have internet access in their homes. Only 30 percent of older African Americans have access to the internet in their homes, and 45 percent of older African Americans actually use the internet, so again, if this is the sole source of information about Alzheimer’s we are really missing a large part of the population.
What’s key here is that most African Americans have a cell phone, and this inspired my study on Brainworks using text messaging. This is the goal of Brainworks. I wanted to test a culturally tailored talk show to see if we can actually increase Alzheimer’s disease literacy, and we also wanted to add text messages to see if, in addition to the talk show, if we sent daily text messages, health messages around Alzheimer’s disease and reducing risk, would that also increase Alzheimer’s disease literacy above the talk show. And then we wanted to also send culturally tailored text messages to see if how the messages were framed, if they were framed in a culturally-tailored way or tailored toward the general population, if we would see a higher increase in Alzheimer’s disease literacy.
I am just going to go through this quickly because I know we are short on time. I want to share some of the text messages so you can see the difference between how you would frame a general text message versus a tailored text message. A general text message would be: More than 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. A tailored text message says that African Americans are two to three times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than whites. A general text message would be that Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death. Tailored is, it’s the fourth leading cause of death for older African Americans.
Around sleep, a general text message talks about sleep deprivation and how that is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. On the right, every shut-eye ain’t asleep. That is sort of an idiom that we use in the African American community talking about the importance of sleep. And finally, we sent general text messages about doing crossword puzzles and brain games, board games, cards and Sudoku, which are ways to train and exercise your brain. The tailored text message we sent talks about doing crossword puzzles, playing board games, playing bid whist, dominoes or spades, which are traditional, more familiar African American games.
I am going to move on here to show you that before the intervention these are the scores on the Alzheimer’s disease knowledge scale, and these are the scores after. What we found is all the scores went up in those who just attended the talk show, those who received general or tailored text messages and those who received the culturally tailored text messages, but it was higher in those who received the culturally-tailored text messages.
These are just some of the ways that we disseminate our work. This was an invitation we sent to all of our 225 participants that we enrolled in the study. It took us about two months to enroll 225 participants in the study. We invited them to a brunch. We always invite our study participants first to share our findings before we report them out to the general public.
This is an infographic that we use. We don’t use peer-reviewed publications or things like that to disseminate findings; we just do it in a nice little graphic so people can find out what we found out from the study. And then of course here is the peer-reviewed journal publication from the study.
These are two of our staff members, Ms. Mardell who is on the left, Ms. Maxine who is on the right. They are part of our senior advisory board. I was asked to contribute to these two studies, two pieces that were published in CNN, one in The LA Times. I asked if I could also include members of our Advocates for African American Elders and the senior advisory board to share their experiences as well. They did such a great job, they were actually featured. Their picture was featured, not mine, but that’s fine. This is just one way that we disseminate our information and get seniors who are involved with our program involved to hear their voices, to share their experiences.
These are just some examples of some of the other work that I do with respect to advocacy. The photo in the middle is me testifying to the Senate Select Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care. They got a hold of my research brief and asked me to testify about long-term care options and the crisis in California. On the left, I was appointed by our governor here to the Master Plan for Aging, which is the document that we are using to transform aging services in the state. On the right, I was appointed to the Caregiver or Family Task Force.
Here are some examples of some of the Op Eds that I do. As a public scholar, it is really important to disseminate some of the work that we do beyond peer-reviewed journals, so that it can actually find its hands of a lay public. All of this work is highlighting some of the issues that are really concerning for African Americans and really trying to urge support for older African Americans and minority older adults, and particularly with respect to promoting health, wellness, and mental health.
Just some current and future projects here. What am I working on now? This is a new study that I’m working on with a colleague, looking at the relationship between racial discrimination and gene expression. One of the things we want to do is to find out how experiences of racial discrimination actually get under the skin, we are looking at those relationships. We’re using a Tasso device which you see here to collect blood. It’s a non-invasive way of collecting blood, because in our experience working with African Americans in the community, we wanted to find the least invasive way of being able to do that. This is painless, it is more painless than pricking your finger and so we chose to use this device to collect blood.
We are also going to examine cultural mistrust. We are not just trying to see if racial discrimination will lead to accelerated aging and other types of aging biomarkers, but what can we do to disrupt that relationship, and so we’re looking at cultural mistrust as a way of understanding is there a way to disrupt that relationship as well as social relationships.
This is another new study that was reported in US eNews and picked up by this outlet, titled “Brain Clearance System Alteration in Cognitive Decline in African Americans with Poor Sleep Quality” We call it Sleep Tight to make it easy. We received a few hundred thousand dollars for a two-year study. I will talk about that very quickly.
I am working with a biomedical engineer, and we are going to be collecting data on sleep, using a sleep device. We are going to use sound and light meters to get a sense of the sleep environment in the homes of our study participants. We’re using a 7T scanner to get imaging of the brain, because we are interested in if poor sleep quality will help us understand cognitive impairment among African Americans by looking at the brain clearance system, the para-vascular space, which is the system that cleans metabolic waste out of the brain during sleep.
With African Americans having poor quality sleep overall, this system might not be able to function, and this might help us better understand why African Americans overall have a higher level of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease risk. This is an image of the para-vascular space, which is what we will be able to capture using this scanner.
These are Aims. This is the larger study. It’s an R01. I should hear hopefully in the next two days whether we got funded. It was recommended for funding. It’s a $5.4 million dollar study, so we’re hoping to expand this pilot to a much larger sample of African Americans, including a few other measures; but generally the same principle, to better understand if poor sleep will help us understand the higher risk of cognitive impairment among African Americans with the hope of designing interventions to improve outcomes.
With that, I just want to thank the National Institute of Mental Health, again, for this award and opportunity to share my work and acknowledge James Jackson and my guardian angels as well as my mentors. Thank you.
DR. GORDON: Thank you very much, Dr. Lincoln, for a really wonderful, inspiring and broad-ranging talk that gave us a sense of your science, your citizenship and your motivation, as well as a really inspiring story of your background. Thank you very much for all of that. I hope that many of the nearly 200 people listening, and hundreds more who will watch this on video later when we release it, will appreciate the various messages you spread along the way.
I could ask you so many questions. Let me just say to the audience that I am going to spend a few minutes here talking with Dr. Lincoln directly and then I will pass it off to some of my colleagues from NIMH who will relay questions from the audience. So please, if you do have questions for Dr. Lincoln, type them into the Q&A box and we will get to them in just a few minutes.
I want to start with your science because I think first and foremost you are a scientist. You told us about many provocative and really thought-provoking results in different individual areas. You talked about the roles of stress, physical activity, negative social interaction -- which I think is really wonderful that you worked to piece that out from the overall social networks -- physical disadvantages, pessimism and also a number of readouts. You talked about various inflammatory readouts, stress readout like telomere length, of course mental health and neurological health readouts as well as BMI.
I wonder if you could take just a moment to look at the problem from a high-level view and give us your sense of how these various inputs and outputs interact to determine the overall health of elderly African Americans and give us a sense of how that web of causality might be addressed with some of the interventions you are trying right now.
DR. LINCOLN: Thank you for that question, Dr. Gordon. I think the bio-psychosocial risk study I did was really trying to capture that, because it’s really hard to do that methodologically. The way that we were able to do that was -- I just really wanted to get a sense of how are these things interacting, and it was fascinating to see that it interacts very differently depending on who we are talking about.
There were a number of things that were interesting about that study, but the fact that when we talk about telomere length, for example, or markers of accelerated aging, we often talk about health, we often talk about poor health and how it’s related to health decline, and somehow the deterioration of health is how we understand accelerated aging. What we found is that is true but not for everyone. It was actually the psychosocial factors that really helped us understand the telomere length for African Americans.
And so what we saw was that biology is interacting with our lived experiences and the exposure that we have in the environment, and so it’s hard to know what the causal factors are. But I would like to highlight Gilbert Gee’s work where he created this framework to show how environmental factors impact mental health and health disparities and focused solely on racial segregation (where you live). And I talked about that in one of my Op Eds about redlining and looking at how where we live impacts our health, but where we live is not where we start. That was determined by other factors, such as racialized policies that force people to live in certain neighborhoods and determine the social determinants of health.
And so I think if you start at the top, the macro level, policy level and think about what’s the power, who has the power to determine where we live and how we live, I think that’s where the intervention should start. That is more of the upstream part, so that’s more of a policy level question.
DR. GORDON: Right. If I can take the liberty of connecting the end of your answer to the beginning of the answer, there is this web of causes, many of which are social determinants of health, and those that aren’t social determinants themselves are influenced by the social determinants. And so if you really want to change that web, if you really want to intervene, at some point you have to look at the structural factors that are creating those environments that collectively have many of these different inputs and then collectively have significant adverse outputs.
DR. LINCOLN: Absolutely.
DR. GORDON: But in the meantime, you are conducting research -- again, just to stay with your science for a little bit longer and then I do want to talk about your mentorship activities as well. In the meantime, you are conducting these studies that really try to look at individual interventions that might help in the meantime while we are trying to address upstream factors.
What gives you the hope, the optimism, to carry out that research?
DR. LINCOLN: Well, I will start with the end, with Brainworks, because as a social worker, a sociologist, when you get calls about the concern about memory loss and the crisis -- I need housing, I’m going to lose my job, I don’t know what to do. I am not a neuroscientist. That’s just not what I do. So, what can I do? It’s not like, I’m not a neuroscientist so I can’t do anything. It’s, well, what can I do? And that is what I was trained to do.
So, looking at the literature, understanding what I am capable of doing, what I’m trained to do, I decided to focus on education. Once I found out that even though African Americans have this high risk, we have the lowest knowledge level of Alzheimer’s disease, and so, if we knew more, could we do something different -- that was how I started.
So yes, I felt very optimistic. I wasn’t sure what I would find but I was very happy to be able to show in a very short period of time, just a month, that if African Americans have more knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease, we are able to recognize the symptoms, we’re asking for cognitive screening, we’re telling other people and sharing information about Alzheimer’s disease and how we can reduce our risk. It was just a small study and it’s a small thing that we did, but it had a very big impact, and not just in that moment but over time.
So I am very optimistic about just the small things that we can do, finding one area that we can work on that has a pretty big impact.
DR. GORDON: Yes, and that is without changing the structure, which we would love to be able to do, and that is without making big advances in terms of the neurobiological ways that we can treat Alzheimer’s, and it’s addressing the needs of the community in the moment. I think that is a really important lesson.
DR. LINCOLN: One thing I would like to add, Dr. Gordon, is how we did it. I think the fact that we were able to use language and information and a method that was familiar and acceptable and informed by the community, I think that is part of the reason why it worked.
DR. GORDON: How did you get to that language? Why were you able to get to that language that worked?
DR. LINCOLN: We had a group of people -- I have a senior advisory board made up of African American seniors, and we worked together. We had Alzheimer’s Association, NIMH, NIH and CDC language in terms of how to reduce risk, et cetera, the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and we translated it basically into a language that made sense and resonated for African Americans. We tested the terminology to make sure that it was something that was understood in the same way across the population.
DR. GORDON: I just want to crystallize this for the audience. When we talk about community-engaged research, that is a huge part of what we mean. You’re working with the community, you are obviously addressing their needs but you’re also figuring out what is going to work from a research perspective.
I have learned so much from you and from others in the field over the last year as we have been really trying to focus on it, but I want to make sure that everyone in the audience gets a chance to get that crystallized as well.
Let’s transition for a moment from your research -- not that we’re veering far from it -- to mentorship. You described really quite eloquently how mentors throughout your life have influenced you, whether it be Dr. Jackson and the others who helped you in your educational process or earlier with Ms. Burkhalter in high school. Thanks for that because it’s really instructive for us all to hear about how we were influenced, and it is something I also do when I talk to folks, particularly early in their careers, and talk about the importance of mentors that I have had along the way.
What do you take from those experiences, whether it be with Dr. Jackson or Ms. Burkhalter or others? What do you take from that and bring to your own mentorship style when you’re working with trainees across a broad variety of levels?
DR. LINCOLN: I think, based on my experience, my background, maybe being a social worker and how I was mentored, you really have to start where people are. I didn’t have a straightforward path, and really trying to understand the humanness of our mentees and taking into account that they might have their own external struggles and concerns and challenges, and lots of talent. So, being patient, being supportive and not just focusing necessarily on the academics but really treating people as a whole person. Checking in, making sure that they are just okay, that their family is okay, how are they doing -- the types of support that they need that might go beyond the academics, that might be a little bit more personal.
I think really treating people as a whole person and getting to understand them. And just like I talked about that what we know is on our CV, but we are so much more than that. So really getting to know our mentees and building that relationship with them.
DR. GORDON: I can only imagine what it must have meant to you to know that you could walk into your counselor’s office and she would give you some food to help sustain you through the day when you were sacrificing so much for your dream.
DR. LINCOLN: It was huge. I had no idea. She obviously knew I was hungry, but I was a kid and I didn’t know she knew. Just coincidentally it was snack time for her, or coincidentally it was lunchtime for her when I walked in. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized she must have known and was just so kind and didn’t shame me, didn’t make a big deal, didn’t bring it up. It was just very unobtrusive, so very kind.
DR. GORDON: Right. We need to take this opportunity to make sure that we are giving our mentees from whatever level, whatever background, what they need and to do it in a way that is so constructed.
You are not just mentoring folks in science, but either by example, or I would imagine explicitly, you are also mentoring in service. You talked about various things that you are doing not just through your research to reach the community. What do you see in your mentees, in the young people that you work with, what do you see from them in response when you lead by example or direct mentorship in that area? Are they rising to the calls that are coming from these communities?
DR. LINCOLN: They are. And what I see is interesting. One thing I noticed is that it’s clear that they are not getting it in all aspects, because how we work in the community is very different. We take our lead from them. Again, I am the only academic and so the interactions that people are having with the members of the community are frequent. I am taking direction from them. They are very vocal -- no, you can’t do that. You can’t say it that way. And I say, okay, we’ll change it.
But they are seeing a partnership, and they’re seeing that we are not top-down, that we’re a team, we’re collaborative, that we have mutual respect. And the community has a lot to say about what they want, what they don’t want, what they would like to focus on, and our job is to support that and bring the science and bring the skills.
And the students resonate, and I think they are learning. They are being trained in a different way where, again, it is not that they’re coming in with all the knowledge, but that there’s shared knowledge and we all have something to contribute to the outcome.
DR. GORDON: You have been successful, and with the help of your mentors and with your own excellence and hard work, and I am grateful that you acknowledged the support that you have received from NIMH and other organizations along the way. But I also know we haven’t done such a great job developing individuals and making sure that we support them as they strive to do this kind of community-engaged research around disparities and equity in mental health.
What can we be doing better to make sure that your mentees are going to have an easier track to success than you might have had or that at least some of your contemporaries might have had?
DR. LINCOLN: Gosh. I think in the time we have, having sat on many NIH panels, having chaired review panels, I have noticed that there are a lot of great reviewers who are very respectful. The extent to which we can have a more diverse pool of reviewers with different experiences, respecting that expertise, tapping into that, and sometimes it is difficult. The demands on some scholars are much higher and many of us just don’t have the time to be able to do it but love to do it, or who don’t have the experience but would like to have that experience. Sort of grooming and developing and growing reviewers in a way that is supportive, being able to train reviewers.
And even in a panel, having people step in and say that is not okay. Or intervening in a way to make sure that the conversation is fair, informed -- I think that will help go a long way, having sat on these panels. And there’s silence. There might be some disagreement. But it’s really hard if you’re the only voice.
And so the extent to which we can have a pool that is diverse, that really understands the importance of community-engaged research and that it’s a science. There is a science associated with that work, and to be able to have perspective sort of loud and clear is really important with respect to scores, raising the level of education and understanding the importance of this work.
DR. GORDON: Great, thank you. And that message is one that we have heard and will continue to strive for, but I appreciate you voicing that again here today.
One last question just before I switch to the Q&A from the audience and that has to do with the impact of the pandemic. I saw one of the articles that you wrote was of course about the disparate impact. I think the title was something to the effect of the biggest preexisting condition is race.
I wonder if you might say just a little bit about that, given how important the pandemic is in our lives and how much effort we at NIMH are exerting to try to understand and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic in various communities, but especially underserved communities. I wonder if you might want to say a little bit about the mental health impacts of the pandemic on the community that you work with, elderly African Americans.
DR. LINCOLN: Sure. I was asked to write that piece, that Op Ed about racism. Well, I wasn’t asked to write about racism; I was asked to write about the pandemic and I chose to talk about racism really being the underlying condition and informs all the other kinds of outcomes that we see with high levels of hypertension and diabetes among African Americans.
I think with respect to mental health, we don’t know. We have not yet seen the full impact of this pandemic on mental health. We do know about, at least with the population I'm working with, the higher levels of depression and social isolation and just the fact that many people in the community were not able to have access to Zoom and the internet and to stay connected virtually. Senior centers were closed and opportunities to gather just were not there. I think, again, we haven’t seen the full impact.
But with respect to NIMH really trying to understand how the pandemic has impacted us, I am glad you mentioned that there is this focus on social determinants of health because I think that’s the way to go. I think really understanding how social relationships, how access to resources, how not just access to the internet, but computer literacy and all those kinds of things are really important to promote mental health. And the stress that happens when we’re disconnected from our loved ones and unable to go to church and unable to go to work. Just highlighting the fact that many of us are working in jobs where we couldn’t socially distance. We are just constantly being at risk even though we would like to be at home. We just don’t have the opportunity.
So I think really examining how some of these structural and social factors impede the ability to comply with public health mandates. And thinking about that, if we understand from the very beginning that when we’re asking people to socially distance, to stay at home, many people cannot. So, what are the alternatives? We didn’t really get that. We didn’t really think about the fact that some people just can’t do that, so how do they stay safe, how do they keep their loved ones safe, how do they maintain their sense of wellness when they are sort of increasing the level of risk?
And so I think the extent to which we can get a better understanding of some of these other ways that people who may not be able to abide by some of these mandates is really important, and to really understand that sometimes social distancing is a privilege.
DR. GORDON: Again, I want to thank you personally, Dr. Lincoln, for the talk today and congratulate you personally on the Jackson Award. I know it must mean a tremendous amount to you, having known and been mentored by Dr. Jackson.
I am going to now turn it over to Drs. Mauricio Rangel-Gomez and Stacia Friedman-Hill of NIMH who are going to moderate the Q&A from the audience. Thanks again.
DR. RANGEL-GOMEZ: Thank you so much, Dr. Gordon, and thank you for this wonderful presentation, Dr. Lincoln. I was completely inspired by it. I will introduce myself. I am Mauricio Rangel-Gomez, a program officer at the Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science, and I will be helping with these questions and answers, together with Dr. Stacia Friedman-Hill from the Division of Translational Research also at NIMH. Thank you so much.
I will start with a question from the audience. This person is wondering if you could comment on what would be the next step to improve the health and psychological wellbeing of older Americans, for example, to engage in exercise programs.
DR. LINCOLN: Well, I am not an occupational health expert, but I do think that being able to talk, first of all because I am a community-engaged researcher, about older adults and the types of exercise that they will want to do. For example, I have a colleague who does Zumba and other types of exercises with older adults using music. But just going back to Brainworks and being able to say not only is it important for you to engage in certain types of activity to reduce your risk, you probably already are doing that.
And so educating people about what you are already doing. Are you taking the stairs, are you choosing to walk? Just small steps. And I think that is really how it starts, is to find out what are you already doing and how do we use that as a way to start. Whether we’re doing it just for an increasing number of minutes or changing small things.
I found in my work that if you get a sense of how people are living their lives first, instead of imposing something that they have never done, they have never thought about doing, that they don’t know how to do, it is much easier to get people involved and get them to increase their level of involvement. But it really does involve getting to know the real lived experiences of people and what people are capable of doing and what they want to do and being able to support them in that way.
DR. FRIEDMAN-HILL: Thank you for your answer to that. Another question we have in the Q&A box is about sleep. Putting it in a developmental framework, we have some questions about sleep and particularly single mothers. We were wondering whether you could address other ages besides older adults, or if you can talk about the caregivers of older adults. Sometimes that is their daughter or son or maybe a spouse or partner. How does their sleep affect the adults that they are caring for?
DR. LINCOLN: As a single mom and someone who has a mother with dementia, it has a huge impact. Sleep affects how quickly we process information, it affects our mobility, our energy levels. I think it’s a really good question because with our study we are not specifically looking at caregivers or persons with dementia, but I think if we did, if we were to move forward and look at that, too, we would probably be able to uncover and better understand how sleep deprivation might impact one’s care.
I will say that I would have huge concerns about safety and decision-making with someone who might be sleep deprived. And not just sleep deprived. Particularly with caregivers, the stress on top of being sleep deprived. We know that people who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have a higher level of stress than someone who is caring for someone who does not have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so the stress and the burden is definitely heightened. If you add sleep deprivation to that, the compromised health that the caregiver would experience would be huge in their ability to care for themselves, let alone caring for somebody else.
I think that is a really important field to examine, a very important topic, especially now.
DR. RANGEL-GOMEZ: Thank you. We got a question from one of your former mentees, or current mentee, Crystal. I’m going to read what she said: I’m hearing from older African Americans about the impact of the racial uprisings of 2020 on their mental health and experiences of racial trauma. What should researchers investigate to understand potential racial re-traumatization?
DR. LINCOLN: That is interesting. It is not necessarily my area, but I do think that it could go both ways, and I can take it back to the study that I am working on now looking at cultural mistrust, the extent to which African Americans trust or don’t trust in certain domains.
One of the reasons I wanted to do that study is sort of linking to this assumption that we naturally mistrust health providers or healthcare without examining whether that is true or not, sort of using Tuskegee as the way to explain our levels of trust and mistrust, and that is not true. Yes, there is that history of unethical and egregious behavior in science, but that is not necessarily the reason why we have concerns or don’t trust the healthcare system. It is our own personal experience, and that is what I found in my research.
So mistrust can go both ways. It could be helpful if you have a high level of mistrust; it could protect you. Or it could work against you. I think the same with this heightened level of protests and awareness of racism in this country. It could be protective in some ways or it could heighten levels of trauma.
And so I think it can go both ways. Unless we study it, we won’t really know not only how it works but for whom it is working. If you’re older, if you are younger, depending on your various identities, I think that is an empirical question.
DR. FRIEDMAN-HILL: Here is a question from a very perceptive listener in the audience. They commented: “I note that you use Mr. and Mrs. before the names of older African Americans. Please speak to why and how not using that handle of Mr. and Mrs. may be perceived by older African Americans.”
DR. LINCOLN: My parents are from the South, and even my nine-year old son is not allowed to address any adult by their first name. That is just cultural.
With respect to older adults, even more so, it’s very important to address them as Mr. or Mrs. Part of it goes back to how they were addressed during segregation and before, very disrespectful. And so, it’s a way of showing respect and honor by addressing them by a formal name or calling them a relative, depending on how close they are. If not, it is generally seen as disrespectful. So I would encourage anyone, if you’re talking to older African-American adults to address them formally, not by their first name.
I use Ms. Mardell and Ms. Maxine -- I have known them for 1,000 years but I still refer to them as Ms. Mardell and Ms. Maxine.
DR. FRIEDMAN-HILL: Our inbox is filled with questions and, more importantly, lots of encouraging feedback. Unfortunately, we have limited time and won’t be able to read anymore of those questions right now. But we really want to thank you for engaging with our virtual audience and for your very thoughtful and informative talk.
It is now my pleasure to introduce Dr. Enrique Neblett. He is Professor of Health Behavior and Inclusion at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Dr. Neblett is the inaugural winner of the James Jackson Memorial Award.
NIMH staff have really appreciated and valued the interactions we have had with Dr. Neblett this past year. We have asked Dr. Neblett to share his reflections on this year as the first James Jackson Memorial Award winner and to pass along any advice that he has to the new winner.
DR. NEBLETT: Thank you, Stacia, for the brief introduction. I am delighted to be back a year after being the inaugural recipient. It is an honor to be here.
I want to start my remarks by congratulating Dr. Karen Lincoln for being this year’s winner. We get so busy, it’s an honor to be able to sit and listen to a colleague’s work who is doing inspirational and insightful work and making thoughtful contributions to the mental health of black Americans. So congratulations to you for this honor.
I also want to thank the committee for inviting me to be back this year. When I got the invitation from Collene, I was very excited to be a part of the program, so thank you for having me again.
I was asked to comment specifically on what the last year has been like, and, in short, it has been great. The award kindled lots of hearing from old friends who were reaching out to say congratulations, but it really opened the door for invitations to speak in spaces that I had not been speaking prior to the award. I was invited to do a number of commentaries throughout the past year which really gave me an opportunity to reflect on some things that I had not been doing prior to receiving the award.
Two highlights from the past year that I credit in part to receiving this award are two grants that my colleagues and I have received since the award. They were both submitted after the award ceremony last July. One is an award from the William T. Grant Foundation. We were awarded an institutional challenge grant, which is a type of award that William T. Grant has to encourage partnerships between academic and research institutions and public health agencies, or public agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
So, we were awarded an award to work in partnership with a human services and civil rights organization in Detroit by the name of Focus Hope, and this grant is focusing on mental health-enhanced workforce development programs in young adults. I am really excited about this award because it’s a community-engaged partnership, it’s community-engaged research. This is a shared research agenda that was developed in partnership with Focus Hope that is really going to allow us to look at the ways in which the services that Focus Hope provides can be enhanced by incorporating mental health into the services that they provide.
One of the things Focus Hope said when we sat down and spoke with them is we provide lots of instrumental support, but we have not been as successful in incorporating mental health into the services we provide. And due to some of the attrition and difficulties they were having retaining black and Latinx participants in their workforce development programs, we came up with the idea to develop, in partnership with the community, this mental health-enhanced workforce development program. And so I look forward to sharing the results of that over the next three to five years.
The second award that I want to share is a structural racism grant that was awarded earlier this year by NIMH. We are looking at something we have heard a lot about today, which are mechanisms underlying the link between racism and health. But this is exciting because it focuses on structural racism, not just racial discrimination or individual experiences. In addition to going beyond some of the ways people are looking at structural racism, we have added to the proposed study an investigation of cultural racism, so, how do cultural representations, cultural symbols, how do things like confederate statues, the naming of buildings and highways contribute to a culture that also influences health. So, we are expanding the definition of racism.
We are also looking at neurophysiological mechanisms that underlie the relationship between structural racism and health. So, this is a collaboration with neuroscientists and social scientists. We are looking at corticolimbic mechanisms, we’re looking at autonomic responses and mechanisms, and we are also looking immunologic responses that helps us understand, again, not just individual experiences but how these things are related to structural racism in the environment.
I am really excited about this award because it also looks at resilience factors, cultural processes, some of the things that Dr. Lincoln alluded to. We are not interested in just documenting but thinking about how things like cultural consciousness, racial identity, socialization processes contribute to mitigating the impact of structural racism.
So, an exciting year. Like I said, these are awards that were not submitted at the time a year ago, and they were both funded. I have also been asked to comment really briefly on how the award has contributed to kind of the pillars of what the award is about.
If you look at the William T. Grant award, it is about community engagement. But one of the other exciting things about the award, the institutional challenge part is that you are required to advance your university’s thinking in terms of community-engaged scholarship. And so I believe that the James Jackson Award made it possible and positioned me for this award which now will have me working with faculty governance at my institution and other entities on campus to advance community-engaged scholarship as an important part of the work that we do.
Another really exciting thing about this work is the people that it’s bringing together. Karen made some allusions to not being a neuroscientist, but through this award, I ended up with some unlikely partners, people I had not worked with before, and so on the second project I mentioned working with neuroscientists, that’s great.
One thing that was really striking to me as we started this program is that we are building off of the Fragile Families and Wellbeing study. The other lab, the neuroscience lab that I work with, when I look at the folks in that lab, there’s a white PI, white co-investigators, largely white students. The majority of the participants in the Fragile Families project are black, they are African American; yet, there were no black research assistants or participants. This has been discussed as an issue we need to think about.
One of the beauties of this award is that I think it is positioning me to work in spaces with other investigators, it’s bringing my lab together with people who don’t have African American investigators, and we have had some really interesting and exciting conversations. So I am really excited about that in terms of mentee training and mentor support.
I will wrap up. I have been asked to give some advice to Dr. Lincoln. I think Dr. Lincoln should be giving me advice because she has been doing this a little bit longer than I have, so I don’t know that I have advice per se. But I will say one thing is that the award really opened the door in terms of people reaching out and presenting opportunities to speak to audiences that I have not had the opportunity to do, so I guess some advice beyond what Dr. Lincoln has already been invited to do, is to take advantage of all the people who will be knocking at your door in the year ahead.
The second piece of wisdom perhaps would be to forge collaborations and partnerships with unlikely suspects. I mentioned that this award let to partnering with people that I might not otherwise collaborate with. I think we really need to mix things up a bit. We talk about siloed disciplines, but even within our own areas of expertise there is very little crosstalk and reaching out and learning about the work of other scholars. And so my advice would be to challenge you and others to work with -- perhaps you will have the opportunity with the new R01 -- other scholars and unlikely collaborators.
The last thing I would say is just continue to pay it forward. I think a lot of times when we do this work, we forget about -- actually, I don’t think you and I forget. I loved the background you gave in terms of humble beginnings in your talk. But I think it is easy sometimes in the day-to-day to forget about the communities and the people that our work is in service of. These are significant problems. Mental health issues I think are going to be more and more significant as we head into this new maybe post-pandemic era, and the onslaught of racial injustice issues continue. We saw the shooting in Buffalo. We have had here in Michigan unarmed men who continue to be shot.
These things are not going away, and so it is really important that we continue to think about not just the research questions and the funding but also paying it forward so that our mentees will have the opportunity to serve the communities that we serve and that are an important part of our research.
Those are my brief words of wisdom. It is an honor to be back. It’s an honor to now join Dr. Lincoln and her work. I hope this will lead to further collaborations between us. And I want to thank the committee for having me here today. Thank you very much.
DR. LAWHORN: Thanks so much, Dr. Neblett. It is always a pleasure to have you here at NIMH, and much appreciation for the words you just shared.
As we are drawing to a close, I have the privilege of presenting Dr. Lincoln with the award. Fantastic.
Dr. Karen Lincoln, on behalf of the National Institute of Mental Health it is my great honor to present to you the 2022 NIMH James Jackson Memorial Award. Your work truly represents all of the pillars of this award from outstanding research and scholarship to excellence in mentorship and a true leader in community partnerships. Congratulations. Thank you for all the work that you do and for allowing NIMH to celebrate and share in this journey with you.
I am virtually handing you the award.
DR. LINCOLN: And I have it! Here it is. Thank you very much. I am holding it together because it’s a little emotional. I appreciate and thank NIMH, one, for naming this award in James’s memory. I am so honored to be nominated by my mentors and my mentee who is a fabulous scholar in her own right. I want to thank everyone for your attention and allowing me to share a little bit about my own story.
I really want to take this moment to thank Toni Antonucci for sharing James with us. I know after 51 years of marriage and spending many years just sharing James with not just us at PRBA and all the students but the world, you know, our time is limited, and to be so gracious to share your time with us is something that many of us are so grateful for. So I would like to accept this award on behalf of James and Toni and your family because they also sacrificed precious time with James so that he could have that time with us.
With that, again, thank you for this very meaningful and important recognition. It is clearly the highlight of my career, and I am very grateful. Thank you.
DR. LAWHORN: Thank you. Now I am going to turn it over to our Acting Director of the Office of Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity, Dr. Lauren Hill, who will close us out.
DR. HILL: Good afternoon. Wow, wow, what a wonderful celebration, what an auspicious event, and congratulations again, Dr. Lincoln. Thank you for your words and your wisdom and your research and all that you have done for the field and for your students and our communities.
As Collene said, I am Lauren Hill, Acting Director of the NIMH Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity, ODWD, and along with Dr. Stacia Friedman-Hill I also co-lead the NIMH Disparities Team. I would like to take just a quick moment to acknowledge and thank the many people who contributed to today’s celebration.
This is an event that is sponsored by the NIMH Disparities Team on behalf of the Institute, and Dr. Collene Lawhorn has done an outstanding job chairing the Award Committee, putting in countless hours coordinating people and processes and rolling up her own sleeves to handle all the moving parts that have resulted in this wonderful event today. She has not done it alone. She has done it with a large and willing and talented team of people who you see listed here on the slide.
I would also like to thank Jonelle Duke from The Bizzell Group, Heather Ovelmen from our Office of Science Policy Planning and Communications, Sandra Molina from ODWD, and of course Dr. Gordon, our Director, for his support for this award and his leadership in these areas that are so important and relevant to today’s award; namely, the critical role that health disparities research plays and that the inclusive excellence in research training and mentoring play in helping us to meet our Institute’s mission of transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure for everyone.
And very importantly, we want to thank our very special guests, Dr. Toni Antonucci and Dr. Enrique Neblett, for sharing their time and their words with us today, made even more meaningful by their personal connections they shared with Dr. James Jackson himself.
And finally, thank you to everybody who attended. Thank you for sharing today’s event with us.
This awards webinar is part of the webinar series that we have each year in the Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity. We have two more remaining in the series that you see here on the slide. They will both be in September, and we certainly hope that you will be able to join us.
Thank you. That concludes our webinar today.