Anthropology student participates in community-based research

Friday, September 14, 2018 | Kathleen Haley

Grace E. Gugerty ’19 wasn’t too nervous when she first met the refugee family who she would be learning about over the span of the spring semester.

“It was more of a lot of buildup in my head. I thought ‘I hope they like me; I hope they don’t think I’m too invasive,’” says Gugerty, an anthropology major and medical anthropology minor.

She and an Upstate Medical University medical student were teamed up in the course Refugee Health Advocacy to learn about certain aspects of the family’s life and work with them to find solutions to potential issues surrounding health and well-being.

“This is really important because you are actually interacting with people,” Gugerty says. “You don’t get caught up in reading articles and writing papers for a class. It’s so invaluable to just be able to talk to the family members and learn about them as people.”

Gugerty’s experience is inherent to a model of learning for health professionals—developed by Sandra Lane, professor of public health in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics—that involves community-based research and problem solving with community members to better understand the social determinants that lead to disparities in health and health care. The social determinants of health are defined as the economic, cultural, social and political conditions that shape a person’s life.

The class and its experiential framework is one initiative of the Route 90 Collaborative, a growing effort among a group of faculty members at several New York state universities and colleges to improve the integration of social determinants of health into professional health education.

The effort developed through Lane’s longstanding work on a model for community-based scholarship, CARE (Community Action Research and Education), which Lane and Robert A. Rubinstein, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and professor of international relations at the Maxwell School, created in 2008. CARE projects have highlighted such issues as food deserts in Syracuse, lead poisoning in rental property, health of the uninsured, and neighborhood trauma and gun violence.

Read more in the SU News article "Community-Based Health Research Provides Shared Learning Experience for Students, Community Members."