Vincentian Mission Informs Public Health Professor’s Research

Yolene Gousse
August 10, 2021

Yolene Gousse ’96C, Dr.PH., M.P.H., Assistant Professor/Industry Professional, has enjoyed a long relationship with St. John’s University. She came to St. John’s as an undergraduate, earning her bachelor’s degree in Psychology. After completing graduate studies and holding various public health positions in the public and private sectors, she returned to St. John’s in 2017 as a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacy Administration and Public Health in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

The University’s Vincentian mission played an important role in Dr. Gousse’s career decision  to return to her alma mater. “We have the only public health program in New York City anchored in the University’s mission of compassion and service to all—one that is located in a diverse, urban community,” she commented.

Last year, Dr. Gousse was accepted to the National Institute of Health (NIH) funded New York University’s Program to Increase Diversity in Behavioral Medicine and Sleep Disorders Research (PRIDE Institute). The overarching goal of the NYU PRIDE Institute is to foster the development of academic careers of underrepresented minority (URM) scientists to increase academic workforce diversity.

This is consistent with NIH strategic goals viewing training of URM faculty as a critical component in developing biomedical/behavioral scientists. NIH efforts to increase participation of URM faculty in these training activities are critical for maximizing the potential of URM faculty and the biomedical research enterprise as a whole. In general, the NYU PRIDE model focuses on academic career development, competitive NIH proposals, peer-reviewed publications, and networking with mentors and peers. 

There, Dr. Gousse developed a research proposal to evaluate the quality of care among minority populations diagnosed with chronic hypertension and diabetes in Queens, NY, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, her proposal was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), NIH, under the Small Research Project (SRP) initiative of the NYU PRIDE Institute.

“It is important to ensure quality and continuity of care, especially among those at high risk for COVID-19 infections and/or other diseases due to existing comorbidities,” she noted. Findings from this project will help provide recommendations for improving access to care in the region. 

The current initiative highlights some of Dr. Gousse’s experience working on COVID-19 related projects.  Her other research related to COVID-19 includes a pandemic needs assessment for the population of Haiti and a COVID-19 Tracking Application Utilization Assessment in Queens.

Another reason for Dr. Gousse’s return was St. John’s University’s metropolitan and global identity. “The Public Health program and the University’s mission facilitate the continuation of my public health research addressing chronic disease disparities and the socio determinants of health in inner-city communities, while also extending my research globally,” she stressed. Returning to her alma mater provided her with the opportunity to work with communities locally and abroad, which has been an integral part of her life and public health career.

Dr. Gousse firmly believes that research into helping underserved populations is rooted squarely within the University’s Vincentian mission. “This has been a unique opportunity—being able to work with the University that played a key role in shaping my career, character, and values.”