Department of Family Medicine
Professor, Primary Care Research Institute
As a medical anthropologist and health services researcher, I leverage quantitative and qualitative data to learn more about social, cultural, economic and political factors that influence health care delivery. I focus my research generally on patient self-management and provider management of chronic, complex conditions such as chronic kidney disease (CKD) and diabetes. I am especially interested in the interaction and overlap between chronic physical and mental health conditions, and I explore whether treating mental health conditions, such as depression, improves patients’ physical health. What we learn will help health care providers find the most effective ways to deliver integrated care.
My current research investigates the behaviors, attitudes and beliefs that inform how low-income and minority patients with chronic medical and/or mental illnesses manage their conditions and navigate the health care system. I am also conducting a pilot study on individuals with mental illness and comorbid chronic illness who are involved in the justice system.
I aim to inspire and encourage novice researchers, especially medical students and clinical faculty who have little or no research experience. Medical students often work with me as collaborators and co-authors. I also train junior PhD researchers on how to mentor students. My efforts teaching research and scholarship will help our future physicians gain analytical skills and insights that may influence their decision-making.
The work I have done with medical students includes interview studies in the homes of patients living with chronic conditions in underserved areas, e.g., patients living with diabetes on Buffalo’s West Side and patients living with CKD on the city’s East Side. This has afforded a unique opportunity for students to assess patients’ living environments. Students can also glean important information about patients' understanding of their illnesses and the challenges these patients face managing their chronic illnesses in underserved neighborhoods. These experiences are often profound for students.
I strive for creativity in teaching. I collaborate with a diverse group of colleagues, including physicians and health services researchers, anthropologists, epidemiologists and an exercise physiologist. I have developed several novel approaches to mentoring, including a protocol to train medical students in medical anthropology and a case study approach for introducing research design concepts to medical students and residents.
I also team up with local health departments, insurance providers and primary care practices to conduct health services research. On collaborative research teams, I specialize in the human factors and processes involved with implementing interventions in clinical and community settings that translate research into practice.