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Meet the 2021-2023 Class of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars

Sarah (Betsy) Bledsoe, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in the School of Social Work

In her research, Bledsoe works with community partnerships to develop equitable interventions to high-risk, marginalized populations including families impacted by depression, anxiety and trauma, and fundamental causes of disease often focusing on pregnancy and early childhood. Her research investigates how poverty and marginalization increase the risks of disease.  
Bledsoe looks forward to her future interactions with Thorp scholars to not only support and share in community-engaged scholarship and research, but to also increase her skills for application in her own community-based participatory research projects including the critical work being done in partnership with community agencies and members in rural Robeson County.  
“Our objective is to pilot a mixed methods exploratory study to better understand the needs of rural mothers and families, including gaps in services and supports, to inform the future development and implementation of interventions to improve rural maternal and child health and address existing maternal and child health inequities in rural communities,” says Bledsoe 
Visit the faculty page for Sarah (Betsy) Bledsoe for current information

Helyne Frederick, Ph.D.
Clinical Associate professor in the School of Education

Frederick investigates the sexual health of Black women and youth, particularly with gynecological care and sexual health care experiences. She prioritizes centering the needs of these communities to document how sexism and racism have had an impact on quality of and access to care and their linkage to higher rates of several sexually transmitted infections and reproductive health challenges.  
With the Thorp Funding, Frederick will look to fellow scholars in learning best practices for building trust and partnerships with community stakeholders and families in the communities surrounding UNC. She hopes to form partnerships with women leaders in Durham to help break the taboo around talking about sexuality and to disseminate information more effectively to Black women and adolescents to improve their sexual health care.  
“Given the understandable mistrust that women of color often have with research and health care, strategic communication of socially-and community-engaged research is more pertinent than ever to build partnerships and collaboration with women and youth to create resources and opportunities that center their specific sexual health and health care needs,” says Frederick.     
Visit the faculty page for Helyne Frederick for current information  

Rachel Goode, Ph.D
Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work

In her research at UNC, Goode focuses on the development, implementation and evaluation of interventions to treat binge eating and obesity. Her current research concentrates on the eating behaviors of Black women and developing digital health treatment programs for binge eating, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Goode aims to increase training on how these networks can design research to address the chronic disparities of obesity and type 2 diabetes to create an intervention that improves the determinants of health equity, including trainings that focus on relearning biological signals of hunger.  

For her Thorp project, Goode plans to use the funds to design and develop a culturally relevant and remotely delivered diabetes self-management education program for African Americans with type 2 diabetes.   

Goode collaborates with the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and their community partner, the Village Heart BEAT (VHB) of the Mecklenburg County Department of Public Health to develop their research. With funding, VHB will enhance community resources and promote programming and lifestyle interventions to reduce the risk of cardiovascular health disparities for Mecklenburg Country residents. 

Visit the faculty page for Rachel Goode for current information 

Eric Hodges, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in the School of Nursing

Tapping into his developmental psychology training during his doctoral program, Hodges’ research bridges nursing and nutrition disciplines to promote ideal feeding interactions during infancy, which shape the development of a young child’s self-regulation of feeding. With this research, Hodges supports families by investigating optimal growth and development for children, and researching ways to prevent feeding and nutrition problems, particularly obesity.  

The Thorp scholarship will enable Hodges to pull together collaborative community-engaged advisory boards of interdisciplinary faculty and community partners that will work together to achieve safer development options for children in central North Carolina and especially underserved families.  

“Many of our nursing students are increasingly interested in health disparities and determinants of health. My research addresses a significant health problem that also disproportionately affects many children of color,” says Hodges.  Visit the faculty page for Eric Hodges for current information


Andrea Hussong, Ph.D.
Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences

Using developmental science applications, Hussong is developing programs that focus on raising grateful children and supporting them through challenges associated with parental drug addiction.   
With Thorp scholars, Hussong aims to collaborate with community partners on program development benefiting these children to develop “connective character” (things like gratitude, generosity, empathy, and compassion that bind us to one another) as ways to build resilience and support recovery from trauma.   
“Right now, the plan is to learn more from a partner about what is needed and to co-create, with the heavy lift on my end, a program to supplement addictions recovery that is focused on parenting in a way that is more responsive to community needs, easily portable, but intensive enough to move beyond support groups, the current standard of care,” says Hussong.  
Hussong looks forward to leveraging her many years of science behind this work, including partnerships with treatment facilities in North Carolina in the past to do strengths-based research and outreach.   
Visit the faculty page for Andrea Hussong for current information 

Rhonda Lanning, Ph.D.
Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Nursing

Lanning developed an interdisciplinary course at UNC that provides birth doula training and student doula service in the community. This program offers a pathway for students to become UNC Medical Center volunteers and Birth Partners while providing doula services to patients who typically would not have access to this type of supportive and evidence-based care. Most recently, Lanning has collaborated with the Refugee Community Partnership (RCP) to increase access to doula care within refugee and immigrant communities in Orange and Durham counties. 
For her Thorp project, Lanning is determined to continue and expand her collaboration with RCP. She hopes to help address the needs of pregnant and postpartum individuals and families within our local refugee and immigrant community by developing a program to identify and train individuals from these communities to serve as birth and postpartum doulas and patient navigators.  
Lanning also wants to focus on collaborating with RCP to address the language barriers our local refugee and immigrant communities face when trying to access reproductive and maternal-newborn health services. This initiative will include promoting localized language services with in-person interpreters who provide proactive interpretation and navigation support within our health systems. 
Visit the faculty page for Rhonda Lanning for current information 

Lauren Leve, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences 

In her work as part of an interdisciplinary team studying climate change in the Khumbu region of Nepal, Leve discovered that the indigenous community felt ignored and disrespected by previous foreign researchers who had violated Buddhist cultural norms in the name of science and made little effort to share their results with the community. Leve tackled this problem by partnering with local officials to educate scientists about Sherpa conceptions of the natural environment and establishing new research norms that comply with local ethics. Elsewhere in Nepal, she is working with other community groups to create annotated 3D visualizations of Buddhist sacred sites that challenge enduring colonial legacies in both popular and scholarly depictions of Buddhism by highlighting the ritual, economic and cultural agency of living Asian Buddhist communities. 
Leve appreciates the interdisciplinary spirit of Thorp Scholars and looks forward to the experience exposing her to innovative ideas and methodologies for collaborating with partners beyond UNC. Leve intends to use the funding to extend her research on Buddhist understandings of nature and best practices for natural scientists working in the region. She will also continue her work with Newar Buddhist stakeholders and cultural heritage activists on decolonial methods of representing Buddhism, collecting and curating an oral history archive to accompany the 3D mapping project. 
Visit the faculty page for Lauren Leve for current information  

Brenna Maddox, Ph.D
Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, TEACCH Autism Program in the School of Medicine

For her research at UNC, Maddox investigates methodologies and practices for improving mental health services for autistic individuals, an area she says still has a research-to-practice gap. She is preparing to launch a large-scale community-based participatory research study to improve the quality of care that suicidal autistic individuals receive, decrease their risk of related injuries and prevent devastating and premature deaths.   
For her Thorp scholarship, Maddox plans to expand this work by building sustainable research capacity among her established community partners and developing new community partners locally. The proposed team brings autistic adults and allies together to identify solutions for this challenge.  
“I just finished the first year of my UNC faculty appointment, all of which was remote due to the pandemic,” says Maddox. “Although I have enjoyed collaborating over Zoom with my colleagues, I am very excited to build new in-person, interdisciplinary collaborations across campus.” 
Visit the faculty page for Brenna Maddox for current information

Kimberly Sanders, Pharm. D.
Assistant Professor in the Division of Practice Advancement and Clinical Education in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and Division of Comprehensive Oral Health in the Adams School of Dentistry

As UNC’s only shared assistant professor between the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and Adams School of Dentistry, Sanders is determined to provide patients with more comprehensive, accessible and coordinated care by positively impacting medication management in oral health. To do so, she prioritizes improving knowledge on scopes of practice and promoting interprofessional education and practice to better prepare learners for real-world practice.  
With her scholarship, Sanders looks to leverage her interdisciplinary research to bridge community dental providers and oral health organizations and educate and encourage pharmacy partnerships for the benefit of patient populations. 
“With the opportunities of being a clinical pharmacist and clinical faculty, I have recognized and practiced on multidisciplinary teams in inpatient, outpatient care transitions, and geriatrics specialty environments noting that pharmacy involvement in team-based care has improved clinical outcomes and reduced health care costs,” says SandersAs the dental setting provides an additional healthcare access point for patients, I consistently identify opportunities to improve the connection to overall health through integrated care.” 
Visit the faculty page for Kim Sanders for current information

Angela Stuesse, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences 

In her research at UNC, Stuesse grapples with the history of anthropology, a field riddled with the exploitation of communities to globally extract data, stories and value for the benefit of a few. By collaborating directly with communities and fully immersing herself in community action research projects, Stuesse uses her scholarship to center dialogue and shared decision-making with those most closely affected by the issues she studies.   
For her Thorp project, Stuesse aims to flip the power dynamic of anthropology research and communities being researched by completing a draft of a book being co-authored by and featuring the story of one UNC student’s journey as an undocumented person in the United States.   
“Earmarking a portion of Thorp project funds to compensate the student for a portion of her contribution to the shared project is a moral obligation,” says Stuesse. She adds that collaborating with and compensating the student will “decolonize” their work and more equitably distribute authority over the benefits of the scholarship.   
Stuesse has collaboratively designed and participated in many engaged projects as a UNC professor, including working with immigrant-led organizations to decrease racialized policing in their communities, studying the impact of undocumentation on students, and cofounding UndocuCarolina, an initiative that is increasing visibility, support and resources for members of the Carolina community living with the effects of undocumentation. Stuesse also aims to devote some of her Thorp scholarship to UndocuCarolina trainings to work towards institutional stability for the program.   
Visit the faculty page for Angela Stuesse for current information