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by Abby Arcuri

The accomplishments of CHER employees, before and after they work with us, can help others in similar roles.

A previous post-doc, Gabby Harris, shared her accomplishments since leaving CHER, and revisited what came before.

What was your path to CHER?

Findings from my dissertation suggested several social determinants of health contributed to differences in health outcomes for patients during the initial months of their recovery of stroke survivors.

For example, insurance status, employment and income were social factors that intersected to facilitate access to healthcare and necessary medications for some stroke patients while serving as a barrier for others.

These results from my dissertation research, along with my personal clinical experiences, inspired me to pursue a career in health equity research after completing my doctorate.

I hoped to help ensure all people are able to attain their maximum potential for health and well-being. I recognized I needed more training and experience related to health equity, community engagement, and structural and social determinants of health in order to achieve my career goals.

My mentor, Dr. Janet Bettger, and a couple of friends, shared the post-doc opportunity from CHER with me.

Once I learned about CHER’s history as a leader in using community-based research methods and innovative collaborations to promote health equity in socially at-risk populations, the amazing scholars I would have the opportunity to learn from, and the alignment between CHER’s current projects and my interests, I knew it would be a great fit!

Luckily CHER agreed and the rest is history!

What did you accomplish in your time with CHER?

I was awarded around $217,000 in a grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

The grant was used to examine structural and social determinants of health with stroke risk among rural Black adults using a mixed methods approach. Some methods included surveys, public datasets, interviews and focus groups.

I participated in the inaugural cohort of the UNC School of Medicine’s Rising Star program where I completed mock job talks and multiple one-on-one faculty interviews in preparation for the faculty interview process.

I also was able to co-direct an equity-centered policy project with NC Medicaid as well as lead a Social and Health Systems seminar for third-semester medical school students. Editor’s note: the students in this seminar produced podcast episodes – check them out at Med Student Voices.

I am proud of my time at CHER and appreciate the opportunities I was given to learn and grow while there.

What are you up to now?

I am a Research Associate at a research and evaluation firm. Here, I support community needs assessments and program evaluation for a variety of governmental agencies and non-profit organizations.

The projects I work on are focused primarily on behavioral health. Working with system partners to develop evaluation and community engagement plans, data collection, data analysis and report development are some of my main responsibilities.

How have you made an impact in your field?

l have always desired to contribute to practical, evidence-based solutions that promote equity, helping underserved populations achieve the best possible health and well-being.

I am doing my best to uplift voices that are typically ignored or overlooked so that their perspectives are among those considered by decision-makers.

In my current role, I am able to use my skills and expertise to produce data that informs the decision-making of those with power to create change in local communities whether that be through allocation of resources, outreach and education, or other efforts.

What do you hope to do in the future?

I hope to continue to work in applied research, contributing to sustainable equity-promoting solutions that build upon the existing strengths and resources of marginalized communities where they live, work, play and learn.