Category Workforce Diversity & Training   Show all

  • Get in the Cloud: Why Thousands of Researchers are Joining ScHARe Think-a-Thons

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    Posted November 1, 2023

    By Deborah Guadalupe Duran, Ph.D.
    Senior Advisory- Data Science, Analytics and Systems, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

    Luca Calzoni, M.D., MS, Ph.D. Cand.
    Physician and Data Scientist, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

    Since February 17, 2023, thousands of researchers, educators, students, and community members have gathered at ScHARe Think-a-Thons to join a paradigm shift in health disparities and health outcomes research.

    These Think-a-Thons are part of the Science Collaborative for Health disparities and Artificial intelligence bias Reduction (ScHARe)—a new NIH resource designed to expand access to large health disparities and health outcomes datasets and the data science skills required to analyze them. ScHARe Think-a-Thons offer free training that enables participants to link cloud-based datasets, access federated data, begin learning the Python programming language, and more.

    And we’re just getting started. As we prepare for exciting new phases in the Think-a-Thon series, we want to highlight what participants have gained so far and preview the many opportunities ahead.

    Training Think-a-Thons: Successfully Upskilling to Advance Careers

    People without access to data science tools have gained access for the first time through ScHARe’s Training Think-a-Thons. More than two-thirds of participants report having little to no prior experience in cloud computing or programming languages, and many belong to populations that are historically underrepresented in these fields. In participant polls, nearly all respondents agree that our Training Think-a-Thons have taught them how to access and work with the large datasets hosted on ScHARe and on Terra, the web platform where ScHARe is housed. With these new skills and membership in the ScHARe learning community, participants are poised to make significant novel contributions to health disparities and health outcomes research.

    (Anyone can benefit from Training Think-a-Thons: recordings are posted online two weeks after sessions conclude.)

    Training Think-a-Thons: Asking New Questions to Get Better Answers

    Think-a-Thon participants are enthusiastic about a paradigm shift in health disparities and health outcomes research. More than 90 percent report that they want to learn to use AI tools and cloud computing to conduct new Big Data-driven research in these areas. As one Think-a-Thon participant noted, researchers can use ScHARe’s advanced computing tools and large datasets to figure out “the basis of disparities”—what mechanisms really drive them—and thus yield powerful new approaches to persistent public health challenges.

    Research Collaboration Think-a-Thons: People from Many Disciplines and Career Levels Are Joining to Advance Health Disparities & Health Outcomes Research

    The ScHARe community includes people from many backgrounds and career levels—Python programmers, social scientists, community health workers, and more. Two-thirds have expressed interest in forming cross-disciplinary, multi-level collaborations to generate publishable research using cloud computing and AI tools. Starting in 2024, ScHARe Think-a-Thons will begin directly supporting these research collaborations, with dedicated space for participants to form new research teams or to introduce their existing research teams to ScHARe.

    The first research collaboration Think-a-Thons will focus on Individual Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), structural SDOH, and health outcomes. Think-a-Thon participants have a wide range of research interests—the intersection of the gastrointestinal microbiome, culture, and cognition; demographic impacts on gene expression; improving LGBTQ research through linked datasets; using informatics to improve community-based care; and more. All projects are welcome!

    Coming in 2024: AI Bias Mitigation

    Many Think-a-Thon participants want to tackle an important challenge: bias mitigation and ethical Artificial Intelligence strategies. Several ScHARe Think-a-Thons will focus on this goal.

    AI is a key tool for analyzing large datasets and building new health-related systems, such as algorithms that assess patient risk and guide care. However, its use can also reproduce and amplify existing biases in data. For example, several populations are underrepresented in biomedical and demographic datasets, and when these datasets are biased, AI can also reflect these biases, ultimately leading to incomplete research, missed or delayed diagnoses, and worse health outcomes.

    In 2024, we’ll launch Think-a-Thons to address this challenge. By tapping the diverse expertise of members of the growing ScHARe community, we’ll be able not only to share best practice tools and workflows, but also develop innovative solutions.

    Opportunities for Tailored Think-a-Thons

    We’ve heard participants ask how to use ScHARe in unique settings, such as college-level research methods courses. In May 2023, we responded by launching special tailored Think-a-Thons.

    At our first tailored Think-a-Thon, with more than 60 educators, we outlined how ScHARe’s free tools could help low-resourced colleges and community colleges teach data science and connect their students to this important field. This August, we offered a second tailored Think-a-Thon highlighting how ScHARe can be useful to Tribal Colleges and Universities and Native American-serving institutions. All Think-a-Thons are free and open to the public.

    We welcome suggestions—let us know if there’s a tailored Think-a-Thon you would like to see.

    Join Us!

    In just their first few months, ScHARe Think-a-Thons have become a space for a diverse community of individuals interested in health disparities, health outcomes, and AI bias research. Regardless of your knowledge of data science or cloud computing, you can join Think-a-Thons to build new skills and meet new collaborators. Women and members of groups traditionally underrepresented in data science and health research are especially encouraged to participate. Join us in making data science work for everyone!

  • Voices from the Pacific: Advancing Maternal Health Equity Together

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    Posted October 18, 2023

    Rebecca Delafield, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Assistant Professor
    University of Hawai`i
    John A. Burns School of Medicine
    Department of Native Hawaiian Health
    Conversations with Community

    Conversations with Community
    “Please share your name, the name of your island home, and the ancestors that you bring with you to our gathering today.”

    This is the protocol that one of my Pacific Islander community partners uses to open gatherings. The last time we gathered, I introduced myself like this, “My name is Rebecca Delafield. I live here on ‘Oahu. I am Chamorro and was born in Saipan, and my father is from the island of Tinian. The ancestor I bring with me tonight is my paternal grandmother.” The women assembled are young and old. They speak Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Palauan, and Kosraean, and interpreting responsibilities are shared among several bi- and multilingual members of the group that speak English. They are from many different island homes, but all of them live in Honolulu, and many live in the public housing complex where we are gathered.

    This night, the members, all women and all from the Western Pacific region referred to as Micronesia, were asked to share something about motherhood in their introduction. The things they mentioned—the role of mothers in their community, the importance of childbearing in their respective cultures, the sacrifices of being a mother, and struggles with health care systems—are familiar to me. Their comments echo findings from studies I have conducted into Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) maternity care experiences in Hawai‘i. I was invited to the gathering to begin a dialog on addressing needs related to pregnancy and childbirth in the community and to share findings from my latest research project, which was funded through an NIMHD Diversity Supplement.

    Maternal Health Data & Research
    National increases in maternal mortality have prompted calls to action by numerous public health agencies and medical associations. NHPIs are profoundly underrepresented in maternal health research, despite increasing evidence of poor maternal health outcomes and inequities among this population. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the pregnancy-related mortality ratio for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, Non-Hispanic in the United States was more than 4.5 times higher than Asians, Non-Hispanic and 5 times higher than Latinos—the racial and ethnic group with the lowest ratio. Yet, the causes of racial disparities in maternal health outcomes in the United States are not well understood. There is also little research into the specific experiences of NHPIs in the context of pregnancy and childbirth. One consistent finding from pregnancy surveillance data and research studies is that NHPIs, compared to other racial and ethnic groups, are much more likely to receive late or no prenatal care. This suggests that, among NHPIs, the challenges go beyond medical and behavioral risk. Therefore, to advance equity in health outcomes among this population, researchers must consider a broader set of factors, including access and engagement with health care systems and sociocultural factors.

    My Research Path and NIMHD Diversity Supplement
    Shortly after being hired as an assistant professor with the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) in 2020, I was awarded an NIMHD Diversity Supplement through JABSOM’s Ola HAWAII Center. The funding allowed me to investigate the maternity care experiences of NHPI women and to culturally adapt a tool for NHPIs to assess quality of maternity care, with a particular emphasis on patient-provider relationships and communication. Additionally, the funding supported my participation in training programs, including the NIMHD Health Disparities Research Institute. These opportunities, along with support from the Center for Pacific Innovations, Knowledge and Opportunities, helped me design, develop, and submit a proposal for an NIH Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award (K-01). My application was successful, and I was awarded funding from NIMHD in July of this year (2023).

    The NIMHD Diversity Supplement was critical in advancing me to this stage in my career and research. The award sustained my research and opened doors to the mentoring and training I needed to draft a strong K-01 proposal. Importantly, it also bolstered my professional networks and helped me nurture my community partnerships.

    Ultimately, I aspire to develop an independent research program that will develop and test a multi-level intervention to improve maternal health and health care for NHPI women and families. My motivations for doing this work are reflected in the conversation I had with the group of community members and leaders the other night. Their words expressed their deep value and commitment to the health and welfare of mothers and families. Equally, they expressed a collective concern about the problems they witness as leaders, language interpreters, and mothers in the health care institutions that are intended to promote and preserve their health. These community members, along with other NHPI groups I have had the privilege of working with, have put out a call for action on maternal health. As a scientist, a mother, and a child of the Pacific, I am obligated and honored to respond with an effort and rigor equal to the value that they have placed on me.


    Note on language usage: My language choices for this blog post reflect the gender identity of the people I spoke with and the attachment of mother/maternal in this specific context of pregnancy and childbearing. I recognize that there are pregnant and birthing people, including Pacific Islanders, that may not identify as women and that the reference to “motherhood” and “maternal” health outcomes can make people feel excluded. My intent here is not to exclude, but to utilize the terms that most closely reflect the language of the people I reference and the findings from my research study.

  • Advancing the Health and Wellbeing of Black and Latino Sexual Minority Men

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    Posted March 8, 2023

    By Jordan J. White, DrPH, MSW
    Assistant Professor
    Bachelors of Social Work Department
    School of Social Work
    Morgan State University

    In the 1990s, I witnessed several community members and relatives pass away from HIV/AIDS. These experiences piqued my interest in the role of social networks, assets, and resources in health promotion in minority communities. Family members (grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, siblings) , many of whom attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), supported my interests.

    I am a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Social Work at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. I am also an NIMHD Diversity Supplement awardee. I have worked in HIV prevention and community health across government, academic, corporate and community-based settings for the past decade. My Diversity Supplement has allowed me to better understand gaps in HIV care as well as strategies to address COVID-19 and Mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) vaccine hesitancy among sexual minority men.

    In 2019, I was honored to become the first graduate of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Public Health Certificate Program from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, due to my longstanding interest in sexual minority health.

    My main research interests focus on advancing the health and wellbeing of populations experiencing disadvantage, particularly Black and Latino sexual minority men, in the United States. While there are many inequities and health disparities that urgently need to be addressed among these populations, HIV continues to be one of the most complex. The research for my supplement was primarily conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic and Mpox outbreaks of 2022 and 2023. Black and Latino sexual minority men were two of the most affected demographic groups. A key lesson or theme from this ongoing work is the need to encourage communication between providers and patients to promote healthy sexual practices within shifting health, clinical, and sociocultural contexts.

    My research has primarily focused on HIV prevention, treatment and care among these populations. I have used qualitative and quantitative methodologies to explore factors that promote health and resilience among these populations. I have engaged hundreds of Black and Latino sexual minority men in qualitative and survey research over the past decade. Anecdotally, my research during the COVID-19 pandemic and Mpox outbreak period (2020-2023) documented some of the most intersectional, challenging, and dire outcomes that I have ever encountered. One example is how Black and Latino sexual minority men are less likely to be virally suppressed than White sexual minority men, thus leading to worse Mpox outcomes.

    My hope is that some of these findings and counter-narratives may help to address gaps in our knowledge of resilience and its multi-level determinants among Black and Latino sexual minority men. Future resilience-based public health interventions, policies and practices for these populations are critical to increasing health equity.

    HIV continues to have a devastating impact on Black and Latino sexual minority male populations throughout the United States. The persistently high community viral load and gaps in retention in care are increasingly recognized as contributing factors to these HIV-related racial disparities. Viral suppression rates are high among Black and Latino sexual minority men who are engaged in care. Many Black and Latino sexual minority men are living with stress and stress-related comorbidities that exacerbate HIV-related racial disparities. Psychosocial approaches emphasize that subjective experiences can produce acute and chronic stress which affect physical and mental health outcomes. For some sexual minority populations, the house and ballroom community are considered sources of resilience and social support that protect members from various stressors. Understanding how a disproportionately affected subpopulation of Black and Latino sexual minority men adjust or readjust to stressors can inform future behavioral resilience interventions and may help reduce HIV-related racial disparities.

    Receiving the NIMHD Diversity Supplement funding was invaluable to my research. It has allowed me to conduct primary data collection, analysis, build my research program, and provided pilot data that I hope will inform future NIH grant applications. It also has fostered collaboration between Morgan State University and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


    Dr. Jordan White is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. He is trained as a public health and social work scientist. Dr. White’s research and practice are centered on understanding and addressing health disparities and inequities among minority populations particularly sexual minority men in the United States.