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From Passion to Scientific Exploration: Alumna Publishes Master’s Project Research Investigating Racial Biases in Health Care

February 24, 2017

The announcement of the verdict for the Trayvon Martin case in the summer of 2013 shocked Marie Plaisime, MPH ’14. She then set out to develop a second year master’s project that would not only embody her passion to ameliorate racial disparities, but also make a difference in health care.

This month, the results of that master’s project were published by the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Read Drexel press release

Plaisime developed a qualitative study to examine racial biases in health care delivery with her faculty advisor, Jennifer Taylor, PhD, MPH, CPPS, associate professor of Environmental and Occupational Health. Her culminating master’s project explored health care providers’ formative childhood, personal, and professional experiences with race and with Black men in particular and examined the subsequent impact on interactions with Black male patients.

Plaisime used qualitative methods to gain a deeper understanding of racial disparities, and go beyond what has been uncovered using conventional quantitative methods. Providers that she interviewed openly and honestly disclosed their fears, frustrations, and discomforts surrounding racial biases within health care.

The master’s project experience “teaches you to hone and focus” your research goals, said Plaisime. Her preceptor, David Malebranche, MD, MPH, primary care physician for WellStar Health Services, helped Plaisime to focus her research project after she came to him with her ideas. He encouraged her to think in a critical way, rather than emotionally, which allowed her research to be both informative and impactful.

The study published this month concluded that racial bias and fear of black men likely result in them not getting the same health care as white male patients.

In addition to the recent publication, her work received the Dornsife School of Public Health’s Exemplary Community-Based Master’s Project Award in 2014.

“Finding people who are supportive in your ambitions is essential to success,” said Plaisime. “Especially when working with a sensitive topic like racial disparities.”

“Our students’ passion has the ability to change what we teach at Drexel,” added Taylor. “Marie and some of her class colleagues taught me the importance of including health care disparities in my safety and health care course, and disparities are now a core part of the syllabus.”

Plaisime is pursuing her doctorate degree in Sociology at Howard University, where she is continuing her research on racial disparities in health care.

Read more about the recent publication “Healthcare Providers’ Formative Experiences with Race and Black Male Patients in Urban Hospital Environments.”