Congratulations to C3EN Mini-Grant Awardee, Susan T. Tran! Dr. Tran is Associate Professor of Clinical Child Psychology at DePaul University in Chicago. Her lab’s current research projects investigate the relationships between stress and pain, examine health disparities in pediatric chronic pain, study outcomes in youth with chronic illness, and examine factors related to undergraduate health. She enjoys mentoring graduate and undergraduate students and recently became the Director of Clinical Training for DePaul’s Clinical Psychology Program. 

How did you become interested in health equity?

I am a pediatric psychologist, and I work with kids who have pain and GI problems. Throughout my training, I noticed the populations in specialty pain clinics in children’s hospitals did not reflect the communities around the hospitals: the hospitals were in diverse neighborhoods, and there was no diversity in those clinics, so I began thinking about why we were seeing those gaps in who was receiving specialty care. What leads to greater access for some folks and not others? I wondered about structural barriers, like referrals–who gets referred? Who gets believed about their symptoms? There are no tests for symptoms like pain, fatigue, and nausea, so it’s all based on self-report, as well as attitudes towards seeking care.

How did you become interested in your C3EN minigrant research topic?

My project is focused on youth underserved by the health care system. I want to understand the experiences of those who aren’t represented in the subspecialty clinics and research. What are they doing to manage their pain? Are there needs we need to address? I’m focused on building relationships with communities that are interested in the health of their youth and highlight their voices. How can we develop and support them? Are we bolstering resources they have or are we developing programs and solutions? We need to build with communities to make sure the solutions are acceptable, accessible, effective, and equitable.

How does your C3EN minigrant project fit into your broader research?

I have not gotten the opportunity to do this community-based work before, so I’m excited! We just don’t have treatments that are designed for diverse communities for pediatric chronic pain. Chronic pain is so prevalent, every demographic will experience it. 20-40% of youth will experience recurrent pain during their childhoods, whether it’s recurrent migraines, abdominal pain, or an injury that lasts. 5% have pain that is disabling, that gets in the way of attending school or participating in activities. While we know that’s common across all demographic variables, this diversity is not represented in the literature. What kinds of resources can meet those needs?

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your research?

One of the reasons I came to DePaul is because of how many diverse communities are in the city of Chicago. The mission of DePaul is to work with underserved communities. The role models I’ve had in my department and university to partner with communities, seeing how effective that research is and how necessary patient and community voices are has been exciting.

Are you a Chicago area health equity researcher? Apply for a C3EN Pilot Award or Mini-Grant!