Project Pathways Alum Participates in COVID-19 Research

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By Regi Reyes

Imari Parham is a 2019 graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana, and a former XULA BUILD Project Pathways Scholar and Research student. He is currently attending Meharry Medical College School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. 

As the global pandemic worsened, Parham and his classmates recognized the disproportionate impact of the virus on communities of color, particularly the Black and African American Community. Wanting to understand why communities of color were hit so hard, Parham and his classmates decided to research pandemic preparedness and its effects on the African American community.

Though Parham originally entered medical school to research orthopedic surgery techniques, he has found a new interest in public health research during this project. 

With several faculty members and principal investigators (PIs) assisting them, Imari and his peers began a grassroots outreach campaign to survey four specific groups of individuals to get a better understanding of how they prepare for the pandemic and how it has affected them. 

They wanted to know where participants were getting their information, understand financial implications, potential stressors, the effects on mental and emotional health, and what steps participants are taking to prevent and reduce infection. 

Utilizing surveys and scheduled interviews, their study has delivered preliminary results with a few emerging trends including that participants were hesitant to get tested and used the test results of others to gauge the likelihood of them also being infected. For example, if an individual’s very social friend tests negative, they believe themselves to also be negative since they took fewer risks. Another result they found is that most of the participants felt “somewhat prepared” in their response to the pandemic, and most participants looked to the CDC to provide relevant information. However, a significant number of participants also admitted to getting their news from social media, and not always from verified accounts. Parham and his team have also found a general sense of nervousness surrounding testing and research, particularly when it comes to discussing a potential vaccine.

Parham said that they have found resilience in the community, with many individuals making their own masks and forming small home-based businesses to supplement their income. Most of their participants admit to using masks, despite discomfort, in an effort to curb the spread.

“[Many said] they said they don’t do it for themselves, they do it for the people around them,” Parham said.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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