APA Conference Diversity Highlights

Conference offered opportunities for students to learn from and network with established diversity researchers in the field
By Brigitte Beale, Christopher Cushing, Celia Lescano, and Monica Mitchell, PhD
The Diversity Roundtable Discussion provided a fantastic opportunity for students to learn from and network with established diversity researchers in the field. Celia Lescano, Elizabeth McQuaid, and Kathleen Lemanek facilitated a discussion of their experiences, challenges, and triumphs incorporating culturally diverse populations in their areas of research interest. Each discussant provided their own viewpoint of the importance of considering diversity and cultural factors in their research as well as the aspects that are unique to their target population. Everything from the minor challenges to the historical barriers of lack of trust was discussed candidly.
Panelists also drew students’ attention to four common factors involved in building relationships with diverse populations and challenging health disparities in pediatric psychology: trust, respect, empowerment, and engagement. Each of these aspects was highlighted in a wide range of research topics including HIV prevention, pediatric asthma, sickle cell disease, and cystic fibrosis.
It was difficult to leave the roundtable without reflecting upon the continuing health disparities that exist in pediatric psychology and the importance of cultural competence. Psychology has come a long way in addressing diversity issues and encouraging cultural competence, but there still is work to do. Students in attendance took notice of the tremendous learning opportunities within the wide chasm that spans the lived experience of minority groups and the state of our science. Though research in culturally diverse populations is not an easy task, our panel recommended that students interested in stepping up to the challenge begin by seeking out mentoring and supervision from an experienced diversity researcher.
Each panelist had enriching stories of mentoring junior colleagues and students through the process of learning about other cultures. Our panelists noted that an ancillary benefit of such endeavors is that they often lead to exciting opportunities to expand one’s research repertoire and include infrequently utilized techniques such as qualitative analysis.
Prior to the roundtable discussion hour, Lescano facilitated a skills-building session highlighting aspects of diversity in research presentations. The session was well attended by a diverse group, ranging from students to provosts, interested in working with diverse clients and research participants. There was also a sincere focus on how to train students and junior faculty in this art. Lescano recommended reflecting on what makes research diverse, including but not limited to: race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, language issues, and population setting (urban/ rural). This applies to both the population of interest as well as the research staff or treating clinicians. The session’s PowerPoint presentation is available to those who are interested by emailing her.
The SPP Diversity Committee was also represented at the breakfast sponsored by the Government Relations Office and the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs for APA leadership, including members of diversity committees. Keynote speaker, California Congresswoman Grace Flores Napolitano, presented, “Racial/Ethnic Mental Health Disparities: Engaging the Public Policy Debate,” where she emphasized the importance of psychologists engaging in public policy efforts at the local, state, and national level to advance mental health efforts.
Napolitano stated that a key role for psychologists is to eliminate stigma associated with mental health in Latino and underserved communities through education and public awareness. If mental health policy strategies are to be effective, they will need to ensure cost-effective, evidence-based, and culturally competent approaches to mental health prevention and intervention. Finally, law reform is needed in order to remove barriers to mental health services and improve access.
Napolitano also gave practical advice on how to develop literature, host mental health summits, and to secure start-up funding for mental health programs. Statistics showing that one in three Latina adolescents contemplated suicide prompted her to spearhead schoolbased Latina adolescent mental health programs in her local community so that students had access to needed services.

APA Poster Award Winners

First Place

Elizabeth Molzon, Oklahoma State University

Poster Title: Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Young Adults with Allergies Compared to Healthy Peers

Authors: Elizabeth S. Molzon, BA, Stephanie E. Hullmann, MS, Angelica R. Eddington, MS, and Larry L. Mullins, PhD
Second Place
Kelly Wolfe, University of Alabama Birmingham
Poster Title: Executive Functions and Social skills in Pediatric Brain Tumor Survivors
Authors: Wolfe, K.R., Walsh, K.S., Reynolds, N.C., Mitchell, F., Brown, R., Reddy, A.T., Paltin, I. and Madan-Swain, A.