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Understanding Risk and Resilience in Minority Youth: Q&A With Diversity Fellow Alfonso L. Floyd, PhD
Diversity and inclusion are critical drivers to our breakthroughs at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. Fostering a community of scientists from unique backgrounds and academic experiences enables collaboration to meet challenging pediatric problems from a variety of perspectives. In a Q&A series in the coming months, we’re featuring five new scholars in the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for Academic Diversity program at CHOP.
As a key part of CHOP's commitment to diversity, this fellowship funds talented researchers and educators from different backgrounds, races, ethnic groups, and other diverse populations. Join us to meet these fellows, learn more about their research interests, what diversity in science means to them, and how they enjoy spending their time outside of work. Our next featured Diversity Fellow is Alfonso L. Floyd, PhD, a psychology postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences who is excited to further his research into pediatric health disparities specific to chronic illness.
Tell us about your background and what compelled you to apply for the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for Academic Diversity?
I am excited for the opportunity to develop my clinical and research skills in pediatric health disparities, which led me to apply to the Research Fellowship for Academic Diversity at CHOP. The mentorship of Drs. Victoria Miller, Steven Willi, and Julie Gettings during this fellowship will support my professional goal of pursuing a tenure-track faculty position in pediatric psychology and academic medicine.
After obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from The Ohio State University, I developed a passion for working with marginalized youth populations, and I was particularly moved by the sociocultural challenges experienced by the youth attending my church in my hometown of Cincinnati, which was comprised largely of African-American families. Many of these youth shared their challenges with navigating the complexities associated with living in under-resourced communities, as well as their use of coping strategies such as prayer, church attendance, and youth group involvement to mitigate the negative psychological effects of their stressors.
These experiences led me to pursue my master’s degree at DePaul University in Chicago, where my thesis examined the potential moderating effects of religious participation in the relationship between urban stressors and negative psychological outcomes in socioeconomic disadvantaged African-American youth.
The invaluable research and clinical training opportunities afforded to me during my doctoral program in Clinical Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University allowed me to work across different medical settings. Additionally, I completed my predoctoral internship in Pediatric Psychology at CHOP, where I investigated sociocultural risk and resilience factors that impact psychological outcomes and family functioning in racial/ethnic minority youth with chronic illness.
What does diversity in research and science mean to you?
Diversity in research and science refers to the representation and inclusion of individuals from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds in various scientific fields of study. It recognizes the importance of unique perspectives offered by these individuals in the development of theories and hypotheses, research ideas, and interventions that are often used to address complex questions. It means striving to increase the inclusion of marginalized communities and historically disenfranchised voices in the scientific process. Lastly, it means to recruit and retain individuals from underrepresented backgrounds by immersing them in research and science that, in turn, allows them to gain a greater understanding and ultimately contribute to the field.
What are some of the research projects that you are excited about?
I am most excited about my research project investigating the impact of mechanisms of risk and resilience on the mental health of racial/ethnic minority youth with type 1 diabetes (T1D). This project interests me because of the challenges that these youth experience with the daily management of their illness as well as the unique challenges associated with their everyday lived experience as youth of color.
Little is known about the impact of stressors related to chronic exposure to racism and discrimination, social determinants of health, and adverse childhood experiences on mental health and adjustment to illness in youth with T1D. We do know that the family plays a key role in youth’s management of T1D. I am interested in exploring these unique contextual and sociocultural factors in order to identify youth who are most vulnerable to poor mental health outcomes and their adjustment to illness management. I hope to apply this model of risk and resilience to other chronic illness populations to address health disparities experienced by racial/ethnic minority youth and families.
What inspired you to choose your research focus/specialty? And what do you aim to achieve with your research?
I have always been passionate about increasing equity and equality related to accessibility of quality healthcare. My clinical training experiences allowed me to witness firsthand the challenges that many families of color experience and report related to inequitable healthcare. These experiences significantly impact the youth’s ability to cope and manage their illness. At the same time, many families of color are resilient and possess individual and family strengths that allow them to navigate the complexities associated with system-level (e.g., individual, family, community, societal) challenges. I hope to identify these risk and resilience factors to develop culturally relevant interventions aimed at addressing these challenges and improving the mental health and family functioning of racial/ethnic minority youth with chronic illness.
When you are not working, do you have a favorite pastime or spot to relax, enjoy a meal, or be active?
When not working, I do my absolute best to disconnect from all things “work.” I love my Ohio sporting teams — Ohio State Buckeyes, Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds — and try to watch those games whenever possible. I also enjoy running, with a goal of someday running a half-marathon. I have taken an interest in houseplants and have been growing my collection of succulents. Lastly, I have taken on an informal “big brother” role for many youth and young adults in the church communities I became involved with during my graduate training.