The Social Stress and Health Research Unit
Since 1991 my students and I have been conducting research on the psychophysiology of interpersonal conflict. We started with studies of workplace conflict, collaborating with New York City Traffic Enforcement Agents, investigating their interactions with motorists who were angry about getting parking tickets. We also conducted stress and conflict management programs with the Traffic Agents. Our later workplace studies involved working with New York City elementary school teachers, examining their interactions with students. In each of these studies, the participants wore ambulatory blood pressure monitors, and we examined changes in their blood pressure and heart rate as they interacted with others. These studies were funded by several grants from NIH, as well as the American Heart Association and the Communication Workers of America.
Since 2000, we have been actively researching racism or ethnic discrimination, specifically examining interpersonal racism (i.e., racism that is directly perceived and occurs in an interpersonal context). We have developed a measure of perceived racism (the Perceived Ethnic Discrimination Questionnaire – Community Version) and conducted extensive studies of its reliability and validity in Black, Latino(a), and Asian samples. We have conducted 12 studies on almost 3,000 participants drawn from 12 different community sites to further our understanding of biopsychosocial mechanisms through which racism affects risk for cardiovascular disease. These studies have been supported by funding from NHLBI and St. John’s University. Selected publications emerging from this research are listed below.
As part of the effort to develop a community-based program of research, we have developed collaborative relationships with both Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Flushing Hospital Medical Center. My students and I are working with Family Medicine residents at JHMC to support their clinical research efforts. The St. John’s University graduate students share their knowledge of research methods and behavioral science with the family medicine residents. Many of the residents’ projects include investigations of methods to improve the quality of care to ethnically and sociodemographically diverse communities. Two recent projects have examined strategies for improving the detection of hypertension and improving blood pressure control, a critical health problem for low income communities.
In addition, I am an active clinician, specializing in the treatment of bipolar disorder, PTSD and obsessive compulsive disorder. My colleague Xavier Amador and I recently published a book for patients with bipolar spectrum disorders entitled “Break the Bipolar Cycle: A Day-to-Day Guide to Living with Bipolar Disorder” (McGraw-Hill, New York). More information about the book is available at www.breakthebipolarcycle.com.