UAPB Psychology professor receives ProDIGS grant

Professor to research health disparities in African-Americans that have attended college

Though the health benefits of educational attainment are well-established, they may be less pronounced for African Americans. Dr. Anthony Austin, assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) aims to shed light on the issue through his recent award as one of the recipients of the Psychological Research and Training on Health Disparities Issues Grants (ProDIGS).

Sponsored by the American Psychological Association, the ProDIGs initiative seeks to increase the capacity of ethnic minority-serving postsecondary institutions and faculty to engage in health disparities research and to encourage student involvement in health disparities research training. ProDIGs offers small grants and a program of professional development activities targeted to early career faculty at these institutions to support activities associated with the preparation of an initial research or program/curriculum development application for federal or foundation funding.

According to Dr. Austin, the pilot project is designed to improve understanding of health disparities in African Americans that persist in the face of equal educational attainment while simultaneously improving the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences capacity to recruit, retain, and train students in the area of minority health disparities research. The aims of the project are: 1) to identify mechanisms of health disparities that persist in the face of educational attainment; 2) to identify whether educational attainment, social subjective status, and race are associated with cardiovascular reactivity; 3) to establish collaborations among the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences with the Addiction Studies Program, Minority Research Center on Tobacco and Addictions and the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office (MISGRO).

Funding from this project will be used to create a course in health disparities as well as to engage, recruit, retain, and train students in minority health disparities research. Additionally, preliminary data from the project will be used to support a federal NIMHD grant application to support more extensive health disparities research and curriculum development.

Dr. Austin obtained his doctorate in experimental psychology with a specialization in health from Ohio University in 2011. His dissertation research examined the blood plasma and blood clotting response to acute psychological stress in healthy males. During his graduate studies, he obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to work at the Inselspital, University Hospital Bern in Bern, Switzerland, where he collaborated with prolific researchers in the field of stress and biomarkers. Following his graduate studies, Dr. Austin completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre (2011-2014), where he expanded his research to the blood clotting response to psychological stress to women and cardiac patients. Additionally, he explored the epidemiological impact of psychological factors on health. In his current capacity as the Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Austin teaches health psychology, physiological psychology, sensation and perception, research methods, and statistics as well as supervises students on their senior seminar projects and independent studies. Moreover, he founded the Human Psychophysiology Laboratory at UAPB. Funded by Title III, the student-centered laboratory where students take part in laboratory demonstrations and also utilize it for their senior projects. Since coming to UAPB, Dr. Austin’s research interests have shifted to better understanding disparities in health and in physiological reactions to stress.

For more information about the research, contact Dr. Austin at (870) 575-8189.

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