Lakeshia Cousin, PhD, APRN, AGPCNP-BC has placed her commitment to health equity above all else. The assistant professor is currently researching ways to not only improve health outcomes for African Americans, but also inspire bright futures for a diverse nursing workforce.
While working as a bedside nurse, Cousin noticed how symptoms from chronic diseases, such as cancer, disproportionately impacted African American patients. She became interested in understanding how severe disease symptoms could lead to a reduced quality of life for not just her patients, but her family members as well.
“I wanted to become a health disparities researcher to understand the factors that can impact disease risk and outcomes in this population,” she said. “Working as a nurse scientist has allowed me to discover new ways to promote better mental and physical outcomes to improve patients’ overall health.”
To accomplish her goal of bettering health care quality, Cousin has dedicated her time to two projects. The first, a pilot study exploring how gratitude journaling can impact the well-being of older Black breast cancer survivors, will also investigate how cultural roles placed on Black women impact how they endure pain and recover from illnesses. She plans to seek a research grant from the National Cancer Institute or National Institute of Aging to support her efforts.
Cousin is also working with a team from UF Health and a local high school in Gainesville to create a mentorship workshop for students in their senior year. Over the next few months, registered nurses from UF Health will identify obstacles to pursuing a career in health care faced by students, as well as solutions to help develop a pipeline to nursing for the underrepresented community of East Gainesville.
“It is my hope that my work will contribute to the body of research transforming health care in our community and beyond,” Cousin said.
Assistant professor Dany Fanfan, PhD, MSN, RN, still remembers the very moment her passion for health equity was sparked as an undergraduate nursing student at Florida International University.
“I was involved in research on immigrant well-being as a Project L/EARN intern, and I remember being approached by a Latina immigrant who thanked me for informing her of the many factors that played a role in the rise of obesity among Latinas after their migration to the U.S., “she said. “With tears in her eyes, she mentioned that she often felt ashamed about her weight gain and avoided going back to her native country because of this.”
After their conversation, Fanfan began to see research as a way to reduce health disparities for various underserved populations. Zeroing in on immigrant populations, she has since centered her research on mental health outcomes among Latino and Haitian immigrants, as well as improving our understanding of mental health, stress and distress symptoms.
According to Fanfan, her interest in the topic allows her to investigate many psychosocial and cultural conditions, as well as explore how and why those conditions lead to different health outcomes in underrepresented populations like Haitian immigrants, whose lived experience, culture and interactions with the health care system are much different than other predominately Black cultural groups in the U.S.
Most recently, Fanfan is examining microbes found in the stomach, health determinants, as well as levels of psychological distress to explore how immigrant health can be affected by a move to the United States. As a Haitian immigrant herself, Fanfan understands that her work serves as a critical first step in reducing health disparities for her community.
“Seeing the widening gaps in health inequity within the communities where I belong continues to push me to forge ahead in my research,” Fanfan said. “I hope to become a source of knowledge that unmasks determinants of health, positively impacts well-being, and transforms health care policy and practice.”