Alice Ma ’13 MPH, ’17 PhD
The intersection of culture and sexuality creates unique challenges to public health education. How does upbringing affect the needs and health of the already-vulnerable LGBTQ+ population? Dr. Alice Ma explores the heart of this issue and proposes new interventions with immigrant Latinos/as who identify as LGBTQ+.
“The Latino/a, or Latinx, community is often considered homogenous,” says Ma, now a tenure-track assistant professor of public health at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). “My research illuminates the ways the Latinx population – and other minority populations – is diverse and allows for more effective, targeted health interventions.”
Ma began this academic journey while she was a PhD candidate at UNC Greensboro, with funding from the Dr. Ron G. Morrow Graduate Research Award, which was established in 2004 by Dr. Ron Morrow. Dr. Morrow, the former executive director of the North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, saw a need to improve resources for underserved minorities. He hoped to support graduate students in the School of Health and Human Sciences who were dedicated to researching areas of diversity, specifically sexual orientation.
“There’s often a lack of funding for graduate students – and even faculty – for research in these critical areas of public health,” explains Dr. Morrow ’84 MS, ’00 EDD. “I’m so pleased to see these students’ fantastic research and interventions. That so many of them have had their findings published in peer-review journals or turned their research into a larger part of their academic careers is incredibly rewarding.”
Collaborating with Dr. Amanda Tanner of the UNCG Department of Public Health Education and a Wake Forest University School of Medicine research team, Ma examined the behaviors of immigrant and sexual/gender minority Latinx. Her discoveries regarding racial and sexual discrimination, and its subsequent effects on the participants’ physical and mental health, were presented at the 2015 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting & Expo.
“This opportunity has been indispensable, professionally and personally,” Ma says. “Not only did it help me expand my capabilities and network, it provided a much-needed avenue of research to public health education. If we can reframe how we think about vulnerable groups – how groups are uniquely vulnerable versus which group is more vulnerable – we can develop better interventions.”
Ma is expanding her research through SIUE internal grants, with the aim to launch a new vulnerability assessment model on a national scale; it is a direct descendant of her graduate work at UNCG.
“I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Morrow. I wouldn’t be where I am – a tenure track professor, advancing my field, fighting to ensure equitable health for all – without him.”
Story by Michelle Danner-Groves, Donor Relations
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