REIDS Program Promotes Research, Diversity

Researcher Chinekwu Obidoa described the REIDS (Research Education Institute for Diverse Scholars) program as “a gateway into a different world, a world of scientific research.”

She spoke Wednesday of the validation that REIDS has provided for her development as a young black scientist seeking to enter the typically white-dominated field of HIV/AIDS research. She likened it to a musician getting signed by a record label. The REIDS program, she said, “changes lives.”

Now in its sixth year, the program based at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA) at the School of Public Health seeks to promote the careers of underrepresented scientists. It assists junior faculty who are looking for education, support and mentorship and provides training by some of Yale’s top HIV researchers.

The program held a conference devoted to research and diversity July 13 at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, drawing 14 program alumni as well as its four current scholars who presented their foundational research projects on HIV risk reduction and then held a frank discussion on the need for, and the roadblocks to, greater diversity in academia.

Now in its sixth year, REIDS was recently refunded for another five years with a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

“Programs like REIDS are fundamental to developing a diverse and inclusive faculty at Yale and the broader academic community,” said Trace Kershaw, a YSPH professor and REIDS’ co-director. “REIDS aims to provide structural and organizational resources and support that can foster the innovative and important research of young faculty of color.”

Bridgette Brawner, assistant professor of nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, described her project, Sociostructural Approaches to HIV Prevention: Updates in an HIV Epicenter” to the gathering. She shared a new sociological concept that she coined: geobehavioral vulnerability to HIV.” The idea was so well received that group members invoked it repeatedly throughout the day.

Brawner, who conducted her research in Philadelphia, looked at the ways in which the place someone lives affects their lives, often in the sexual choices they make. She researched the changes that could be made in a community, such as more green space, that might make it more protective. She said residents need to develop the skill of “knowing what to expect when you don’t know what to expect.”

Another alumna, Ndidi Amutah-Onukagha, assistant professor, Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, College of Education and Health Services, Montclair State University, did a project on mother/daughter relationships called, “Project

DASH (DIVAS Against The Spread of HIV/AIDS): Results of a Pilot Study on HIV Risk and Mother-Daughter Communication, in Newark, N.J.

Programs like REIDS are fundamental to developing a diverse and inclusive faculty at Yale and the broader academic community.

Trace Kershaw

She conducted 60-minute interviews about how HIV has affected the subject’s families and what their interactions with the health care system have been like. Amutah-Onukagha found that mothers and daughters had close relationships, but when it came to HIV, they didn’t talk about it. She also found that there was a lack of social services and that the cold treatment women received by doctors’ office receptionists was enough to keep them from coming back.

“There’s a lot to be said for self-care,” Amutah-Onukagha said. “Mothers are very loving, but they don’t know what to say, how to help.”

The other presenters were:

  • Yzette Lanier, assistant professor, nursing, New York University, Moving Beyond Age; A Contextualized Examination of African American Males and Females’ Sexual Debut.
  • Kyla Day Fletcher, assistant professor, Department of Psychology, Kalamazoo College, Dynamic HIV Risk: Using Retrospective and Prospective Data to Understand the Role of Sexual Partners and Substance Use in Condom Use and HIV Testing Among African Americans.
  • Tamora Callands, assistant professor, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, College of Public Health, The University of Georgia, The Health of a Nation: Working to Improve the Health of Young Women in Liberia.
  • Chinekwu Obidoa, assistant professor, Global Health, Mercer University, Exploring the Context of HIV Sexual Risk among Emerging Adults in Georgia: Multi-level Bivariate Associations.
  • Kamila Alexander, assistant professor, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Reproductive Coercion, Intimate Partner Violence, & HIV: Intersecting Risks Among Young Women.

Barbara Guthrie, REIDS co-director and a professor emerita at the Yale School of Nursing, kicked off the day by thanking Yale School of Public Health Dean Paul Cleary and Kershaw for their “undying support” for the program and its’ ideals of creating “a safe environment for people to be themselves,” and creating “a pathway to equity.”

The afternoon panel discussion on diversity and inclusion in academia touched on issues such as feelings of isolation, the need for advocates and mentorship, and the need for structural changes in academia that would increase diversity. Kershaw said that REIDS’ strength is that it gives scholars a sense of community and belonging in research. He said this year’s projects showed the breadth of research that was done as well the program’s impact on both HIV prevention and increasing diversity in academia.

To learn more about the REIDS program, visit its website at:

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This article was submitted by Denise Meyer on July 18, 2016.

Related People

Paul D Cleary

Anna M. R. Lauder Professor of Public Health (Health Policy) and Professor of Sociology and in the Institute for Social and Policy Studies

Barbara Guthrie

Professor Emeritus of Nursing

Trace Kershaw

Department Chair and Professor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences)