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University of West Indies School of Clinical Medicine & Research Hosts 6th Research Day
By Eileen Fielder
Sep 17, 2012 - 4:56:29 PM

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Dr Carolyn M. Tucker, a University of Florida (UF) psychology professor with a joint appointment in Psychology and Community Health and Family Medicine. She will present the Royal Bank of Canada Lecture featuring the topic “Changing Lifestyle: Making it the Community’s Agenda”.

Nassau, Bahamas - Under the theme “Building Healthy Communities, the Research Agenda”, the Bahamas-based University of the West Indies School of Clinical Medicine and Research (UWI-SCMR) will host its 6th Annual Research Day September 20-21, sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada. The symposium takes place at the College of the Bahamas, School of Nursing Lecture Hall on Grosvenor Close in the grounds of the Princess Margaret Hospital.

“It’s a two-day event with over 20 presentations. As our theme suggests, the UWI SCMR focus this year underscores the fact that the non-communicable diseases, often connected directly to lifestyle behaviours, have emerged as one of the biggest causes of illness and death in The Bahamas. Changing behaviours is not easy. Our intent is to undertake community-based lifestyle changing initiatives to national outcomes,” said Dr Robin Roberts, Director, UWI SCMR.

The opening ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, September 20 from 6-9pm. The first keynote speaker is Dr Carolyn M. Tucker, a University of Florida (UF) psychology professor with a joint appointment in Psychology and Community Health and Family Medicine. She will present the Royal Bank of Canada Lecture featuring the topic “Changing Lifestyle: Making it the Community’s Agenda”.

The symposium will comprise presentations of research papers, which range in subject from “Exposure to Community Violence and Associated Symptoms of Psychological Trauma Among Adolescents in New Providence, Bahamas”, “The Prevalence of Elevated Blood Pressure in Adolescence in New Providence, Bahamas” and “Determination of the Prevalence of Abnormal Glucose Tolerance in Obese versus Non-obese Adolescents in The Bahamas”.

The presenters are the physicians and consultants of the UWI SCMR, who lecture in the programme and lead the research teams, the School’s graduate students and guest speakers recognized for excellence in research, among whom is Dr. Gerry Eijkemans, PAHO/WHO Representative, The Bahamas & Turks & Caicos Islands. Dr Eijkemans is expected to speak on the topic “Beyond the Life style interventions Examining the role of the social determinants of non-communicable diseases”.

This opening session will be launched on Thursday evening with Dr Tucker’s presentation. An American, who was raised in the State of Virginia, she is eminently qualified to examine such issues by reason of her education and a wealth of research and personal experience. As she notes in her resume, she was raised in a small Virginian country town, she said, “in a family low in income but rich in love and support.”

“Part of showing that love was preparing large home-cooked meals that may have nourished the soul but inadvertently fed the body too much saturated fat and cholesterol. For many African-Americans, food is a way of expressing our love and affection and honoring our past,” said Tucker, who once weighed more than 200 pounds.

She says further, “A passion of mine is conducting research aimed at health promotion and reducing health disparities, and preparing the next generation of researchers-both minority and majority students-who are committed to minority health and reducing health disparities,” she said.

In response to the challenges of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and other illnesses faced by families such as hers, Tucker has launched the Family Health Self-Empowerment Project for Modifying and Preventing Obesity. Designed to promote healthier lifestyles among children, adolescents, and their caregivers in low-income families, the project has won a $1.1 million grant from The PepsiCo Foundation.

More than 600 families from throughout the United States have been attracted to participate in a two-year health promotion training programme. The focus is on interactive, fun-filled and culturally sensitive workshops to give participating families the education and training they need to take control of their health behaviours and their weight. There will be testing to determine the effectiveness of the programme’s interventions.

In her talk, Dr Tucker will highlight the strategies she is employing in her research. “We are going to use a motivational and empowerment approach. This approach separates our programme from others. We’ll focus on promoting health self-motivation among participants and teaching them how they can be in control of their health. They will learn how to read nutrition labels, how they can cook their favorite foods in more healthy ways, and how to overcome what they see as barriers to engaging in a healthy lifestyle,” Dr Tucker said.

The current project is just one of a string of research studies and interventions, which Tucker has engaged to help minorities gain control over obesity and accompanying lifestyle and medical problems. She has completed the Culturally Sensitive Teacher Training Research Project, which measured the impact of training teachers to use a culturally sensitive student-empowerment approach for enhancing the academic performance and reducing behavior problems among children in their classrooms. Tucker also has conducted the federally funded Culturally Sensitive Health Care Research Project, which defined, assessed, and evaluated whether providing culturally sensitive health care to patients affected their treatment adherence and health outcomes.

In 2007 Tucker, one of the first black students to earn a PhD in psychology from the State University of New York-Stony Brook, was awarded a $236,000 grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to obtain national data for evaluating the usefulness of her inventories for evaluating and promoting patient-centered culturally sensitive health care. This grant also was awarded to test a programme that she has developed for improving physical health and quality of life among adult culturally diverse patients with Type II Diabetes.

In her own research labs at the University of Florida, she fosters and promotes a culturally diverse environment. Among the 30 undergraduate researchers and 11 graduate students working on one or the other of her two large research teams, 16 different countries are represented. Indeed, students of all backgrounds have found Tucker to be a life-changing mentor. In 2003, she was awarded UF’s Doctoral Dissertation Advisor and Mentoring Award.

“If I have any kind of legacy, I hope it will be this research and mentoring. Right now there is such a strong need for both,” Tucker said.

Carolyn M. Tucker is the Florida Blue Endowed Chair in Health Disparities Research at the University of Florida and the Richard and Thelma O. C. Barney Endowed Term Professor of Health Disparities in the UF College of Medicine (2008-present). She also is a Distinguished Alumni Professor, Professor of Psychology, Professor of Community Health and Family Medicine, Affiliate Professor of Pediatrics, Research Foundation Professor, and a Fellow in the American Psychological Association. She is the Director of the UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program and is a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of the National Medical Association. She is nationally known as the founder of the evidence-based Health-Smart Behavior Program to modify and prevent obesity, which is being used nationally in community centers, YMCAs, churches, and health care sites.

Begun in 2006, the UWI SCMR Research Day was launched to “facilitate the improvement of health of the people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas through clinical research that will produce valuable knowledge for the prevention and management of diseases, and formulation of health policies and programmes” and to give students in the programme to present their research in an appropriate public setting.

Located on the grounds of the Princess Margaret Hospital, the School of Clinical Medicine and Research, the Bahamas was established in Nassau in 1997. It is the branch of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of the West Indies in the Bahamas with responsibility for teaching UWI’s medical students in the last two years of their 5-years undergraduate training programme. The postgraduate training offers select programmes in Family Medicine, Psychiatry, General Surgery, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Accident & Emergency and Obstetrics and Gynecology. The teaching faculty includes 6 full-time lecturers and some 60-part time and Associate lecturers. The School currently has 56 undergraduate students and 66 postgraduate students enrolled currently.

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