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Research Fellow

April 25, 2017

Collaborative Health Integration Research Program (CHIRP)

Project Summary:

The overall goal of CHIRP is to reduce health disparities by generating new knowledge and providing research training in health disparities. CHIRP trainees conduct mechanistic research investigating the role of psychosocial factors in the development and management of chronic disease in high-risk populations. The projects are designed to provide information that can guide the formulation of provider, patient, and system-based interventions to improve health outcomes.

CHIRP trainees include JHMC Family Medicine Residents and STJ undergraduate students in psychology and biology, and masters and doctoral-level graduate students in psychology. All trainees work together on behavioral medicine research projects; and in the process, learn to become competent researchers.

This year trainees are working on the following projects:

1. Stress, Social Cognition, and Health: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Studies: The aim of this study is to understand possible mediators of the relationship of racism to depression and blood pressure reactivity in daily life. In this study, we will test the hypothesis that racism is associated with changes in social cognition, including changes to schemas (related to the self, and others including the in-group and out-group, and the world at large) and cognitive control processes. Schemas are mental structures that consist of constellations of affects, attitudes and beliefs. Stereotype threat concerns could be considered a relational schema, a schema about the ways in which others perceive us or we perceive others. Cognitive control processes include aspects of executive function that facilitate shifting attention and planning. We hypothesize that racism increases negative schemas about others and decreases cognitive control. In turn, we expect these changes in social cognition to be
associated with negative mood during the day and more negative social interactions with others. These daily experiences are hypothesized to increase risk for depression. We will measure these variables 4 times over a 5-month period in a longitudinal study.

We test hypotheses about these schemas using explicit surveys and implicit association tests. We have tested the hypothesis that schemas influence our daily mood and responses to routine social interactions using electronic diaries and ecological momentary assessment methodology.

During previous semesters, we have continued to develop the literature review and the protocol for the “Stress, Mood and Social Interactions” study, and obtained IRB approval for this project and another set of pilot projects, which developed the materials for this one. We obtained a seed grant from St. John’s to conduct a longitudinal study testing the hypothesis that acute exposure to racism activates relational schemas (schemas about our relationships with others) and that this activation produces changes in mood and social interactions, which if uninterrupted, produce changes in depression. (So one question we must answer is what could buffer these effects on a daily basis?).

Last semester we collected data for this study. We will continue to collect data for this study which also provides pilot data for an application to NHLBI. We hope to be completed with data collection in the spring and be ready to submit a grant application in the Fall of 2017. Advanced statistical analyses including bootstrapping methods for testing mediation and structural equation modeling will be employed to test the overall hypothesis that the relationship of racism to depression is mediated through changes in non-conscious schemas about the self and others and the effects of these schemas on daily mood and social interactions.

2. Studies of Provider Concerns about Advance Care Planning: We are continuing an on-going project investigating physician and nurse concerns about emotion regulation in the context of end-of- life and advance care planning. These studies are the pilot studies for a revision of a grant to NINR to develop a web-based intervention to improve emotion regulation in providers.

CHIRP uses a collaborative experiential approach to training. Knowledge acquisition and skill development occur as trainees engage in the research process. Trainees work on projects that are conceptualized and implemented at a level suitable for publication. They serve as
apprentices in the research process, accepting responsibility for different parts of the projects based on their skills level and experience. As trainees acquire new skills, they assume more responsibility and train others.

For each project, students work together to gather literature and generate specific testable hypotheses. Doctoral-level graduate students supervise the work of masters-level students and undergraduates in small group recitations. All trainees practice research protocols in group meetings. Students "try-out" the protocols, and discuss modifications. Once the protocols are finalized, the St. John’s team collects data. Dr. Brondolo and Amandeep Kaur, the program coordinator, supervise each step of the process.

The collaborative process extends to the data analyses needed for the studies. The psychology team conceptualizes and conducts the analyses. Students learn skills in data management and analysis, using multiple programs including Excel, SAS, and SPSS. Initially, all data are
analyzed in group meetings using SAS. The data are projected onto a whiteboard, and students take turns running the analyses. Once students have basic data manipulation skills, they can analyze portions of the data on their own and present their findings to the group.

CHIRP collaborators share ideas both in person and remotely using Drop-Box, an online file-sharing system; and on Skype, on online communication program that enables screen-sharing. These technologies enable CHIRP collaborators to meet despite working in different locations and facing busy schedules. These technologies permit team editing of literature reviews and protocols, and allow collaborative data analysis.

As part of the class, all trainees learn to work effectively with research participants. All CHIRP trainees complete NIH certification in the responsible execution of research with human participants. They follow dedicated protocols and testing procedures to ensure that participant care is the most important priority. The values driving the research and the study process are discussed repeatedly and serve as the topic for written reflections that are required of all trainees.

CHIRP trainees have been presenting data from these projects at conferences and submitting abstracts to new conferences. We write papers and grants collectively, projecting the material on the screen and editing collaboratively.

The program as a whole is supervised by Dr. Brondolo of STJ, Dr. Alan Roth, Chair of the JHMC Department of Family Medicine, Dr. Gina Basello the JHMC Family Medicine Residency Director, and Dr. Kate Walton of SJU. Dr. Walton directs the Masters Program in Experimental Psychology, and many students from the Masters program are CHIRP fellows. The technical coordinator for the program is Amandeep Kaur, a graduate of the St. John’s master's program who has worked in the Social Stress and Health laboratory for three years. Our doctoral-level supervisors this year are Virginia Sima and Emma Ducca from the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program. The undergraduate and graduate student trainees from St. John’s University receive course credit each semester for their participation. JHMC residents meet their training in research requirements through participation as well.


CHIRP contributes to the pipeline of researchers, including those from underrepresented groups, who are committed to health disparities research. The CHIRP trainees report that they are excited to be learning “real-world” research skills they will use in the future.As CHIRP trainees collect data, they can see their ideas in action. Their hypotheses come to life in the clinic and the lab.Most important, CHIRP trainees are proud that they are conducting studies that can affect the health of others. They know their research is consistent with the Vincentian mission and can help patients to help themselves to improve health and the ability to benefit from health care.

Qualifications:

At St. John’s, the pre-requisites are 1000C, 2030, 2040 (although 2040 can be a co-requisite). Graduate students must have completed an undergraduate research methods course. They must be enrolled in one statistics course at the graduate level.
Required Courses apply to all applicants unless majoring in a discipline other than Psychology.

Job Responsibilities:

Attend lab meetings once per week on Wednesdays from 10-12pm.
Attend recitation meetings once per week (1 hour).
Complete all readings and accompanying reflection assignments.
Participate in discussions during lab and recitation meetings.
Complete a web-based training course on “Protecting Human Research Participants”.
All fellows will receive training on the protocols for our study and are expected to
assist with data collection, data entry, and research protocol and presentation
development.

Recruting Information:

Level: Undergraduate

Year in Program 2

Semesters Recruiting

  • Fall
  • Spring
  • Summer

Year:

  • Junior
  • Senior

Campus(es): Queens

Position Title: Research Fellow

Hours per Week: 5

Type of Position: Unpaid


Position Status:
Open

Interested in this Job?

If you are interested in this research opportunity, contact Elizabeth Brondolo at 718-990-6496 or e-mail brondole@stjohns.edu