There is a new leader at the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health (CRECH), and she has a very familiar face. Dr. Cleopatra Caldwell has recently been named the director of CRECH, taking over for Dr. Harold (Woody) Neighbors. Under Dr. Neighbors’ leadership, CRECH has emerged as a leader in health disparities research, training and curricula, bringing in nationally recognized speakers and experts in the area of health disparities. With this new transition, Dr. Caldwell plans to maintain the structure of the center, while increasing focus on the research aspect of the center.
Until this point, CRECH has mostly centered on training doctoral students, and in fact provides generous funding opportunities for doctoral students aiming for a career in health disparities. Dr. Caldwell’s goal is to “Put CRECH on the map with regard to health disparities research.” Her plans include collaboration with similar organizations, such as the National Center for Institutional Diversity, the Partnership for Program of Black Americans, and closer to home, the University of Michigan School of Social Work. Dr. Caldwell is very proud of the center, and of the scholars that it funds and trains. She speaks fondly of the ongoing relationship CRECH maintains with its scholars after they’ve graduated and moved on and looks forward to the “CRECH family expanding.”
Dr. Caldwell’s own work is a testament to her campaign for CRECH to be a leader in health disparities research. For example, the Fathers and Sons project, is a community-based participatory research project that aims to prevent substance use, violence, and early sexual initiation among African American adolescent males. The intervention involves engaging non-resident fathers and their 8-12 year old sons in mutually beneficial activities to enhance their relationships. The curriculum focuses on effective communication, cultural awareness, and skill building. For Dr. Caldwell, the goal is to "enhance parenting behaviors and put fathers in a position to be protectors of their sons."
Dr. Caldwell believes that the program has been beneficial for not only the young boys, but also for the fathers who have requested help for their own issues such as depression or alcohol dependency during the course of the intervention. She hopes that the intervention will eventually gain evidenced-based model status and that it will provide a model for more family-centered interventions. Fathers and Sons, which was originally funded by the Centers for Disease Control and a project of the Prevention Research Center of Michigan (PRC/MI), was recently recognized by the CDC PRC program as a Promising Intervention. “Nobody is doing this,” Dr. Caldwell explains, “especially from a Public Health perspective to emphasize family and culture as protective factors.”
Looking at national data sets, Dr. Caldwell is also setting out to examine nuanced differences in mental health outcomes through experiences of discrimination and other factors of psychological well-being among African American blacks versus Caribbean blacks. The goal is to understand within-group differences in the population in order to provide services to meet the mental health needs of these different groups.
Dr. Caldwell is no stranger to Michigan. In fact, she earned all of her graduate degrees in Michigan, including her PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan. After returning to her native Washington, D.C., Dr. Caldwell was lured back to Michigan as a faculty member in 1996 and has been here ever since. She says that she enjoys HBHE because of all the contact she has with students as an advisor, a professor and the chair of the doctoral committee.
According to Dr. Caldwell, it is inspiring to see the excitement of students, “It keeps you fresh” she says. Dr. Caldwell appreciates that intervention is “an important part of what we do” in HBHE and enjoys seeing the impact that community-based participatory research can have in the communities in which she works.