Graduate Student Highlights
2019-2020 Graduate Student Highlights
Annahir Cariello, M.Ed., M.S.
Virginia Commonwealth University
Something Interesting about Me
I am a first-generation American, the child of immigrants. In search of opportunity, my parents immigrated to New Jersey from Spain thirty-five years ago; six years prior my father emigrated from Uruguay. To make ends meet, my mom worked in a factory and rented rooms and my dad continually worked at least two jobs and went to night school to learn English and receive vocational training. My mom learned to speak English by watching I Love Lucy and I Dream of Jeannie reruns. Luckily, Ricky Ricardo rants in Spanish throughout most episodes! Slowly my parents learned broken English and received their citizenship. When interacting with community officials, my parents were routinely ignored, rejected, stereotyped and generally discriminated against because of their ethnicity. Though an underprivileged immigrant struggling to overcome cultural barriers and navigate new financial, educational and healthcare systems, my mother constantly instilled in me the belief that through asking for help/instruction and consistent hard work one could face any challenge and seguir adelante [keep moving forward].
During my childhood, my family did not have health insurance and our access to healthcare was a community based pediatric clinic run by volunteer physicians, nurses and dentists. I recall squirming while waiting for hours in a crowded room to see a doctor for my yearly physical required by the elementary school. The dental clinic was located in the basement of the building and to reach the examination rooms it required one to walk down a squeaky staircase and poorly lit hallway with flickering lights. Although I was afraid of the dark as a child, this memory holds no fear as the dental assistant directing my mother and I was so inviting and welcoming, her warmth overpowered the ambiance. My siblings and I received yearly healthcare from this clinic for most of my childhood. The community clinic not only provided basic health care, it facilitated access to education as without yearly physicals I would have been denied schooling. Although my siblings and I received healthcare, my parents along with all the other children’s parents patiently waiting did not have access to services.
As my parents struggled to establish themselves, they also struggled with lack of resources. Conflicts arose between generations due to differing rates of acculturation: grandparents never learning English, parents unfamiliar to US customs and my siblings and I experiencing the highest levels of absorption in the educational system. I decided to pursue a graduate degree in psychology to provide healthcare services denied my parents in childhood and investigate factors that impact mental and physical health in my community. The persistent discrimination and acculturative stress impacted my parents, grandparents and aunts/uncles reflected in chronic health conditions mirroring national health disparities. My mother’s sound counsel to seek instruction wherever possible and instilled value for hard work motivates me to seguir adelante [keep moving forward] to reducing disparities in healthcare access, investigating biopsychosocial-spiritual factors impacting health and providing empirically supported culturally sensitive clinical interventions to minorities and other underserved populations facing similar circumstances and barriers.
Major Findings Via Personal Research
Title: Influence of Resilience on the Relations among Acculturative Stress, Somatization, and Anxiety in Latinx Immigrants
Authors: Annahir N. Cariello, M.Ed., M.S, Paul B. Perrin, Ph.D., Alejandra Morlett-Paredes, Ph.D.
Objective: In cultures where psychological distress is stigmatized, the presentation of emotional distress as somatic complaints is a frequent occurrence. Understanding factors that contribute to the presentation of somatization in Latinx immigrants is crucial due to its tie to poor quality of life. The purpose of this study was to explore relations among acculturative stress, anxiety, somatization, and resilience in a sample of Latinx immigrants living in the U.S.
Methods: Data were collected from 204 Latinx immigrants across diverse community settings.
Results: Findings were that acculturative stress was positively related to both anxiety and somatization, and the relation between acculturative stress and somatization occurred through anxiety. Resilience buffered the relations between acculturative stress and somatization, as well as between anxiety and somatization.
Conclusion: This study suggests that Latinx immigrants presenting with somatic symptoms may benefit from the examination of a possible comorbid presentation of anxiety or acculturative stressors. An integrated behavioral health care approach is recommended when working with Latinx immigrants evaluating the impact of minority stressors on health and the incorporation of cultural protective factors producing resilience to buffer these effects.
Current Research Interests and/or projects
My research experience spans diverse minority populations yet are all unified by one concept: the intersection of mental and physical health in minorities. Specifically, I am interested in investigating the biopsychosocial aspects of chronic illness through neurological, environmental and psychological functioning as related to trauma and minority stressors to improve adjustment to and prevention of chronic illnesses in minorities and disabilities across generations for the development of culturally sensitive treatments. My long-term goal is to become an independent translational minority researcher and clinician investigating the intersection of mental health, minority stressors and trauma’s impact on neurological and physiological processes in minorities for the development of culturally sensitive treatments. My research training goals focus on investigation of minority biopsychosocial stressors that impact mental health and health disparities. As a first-generation Latina-American and first-generation college student, I am concentrating my research on minority stressors and environmental stressors that impact the mental and health disparities. I am interested in continuing my investigation of the intersection between mental health and physical health on internship.
Nelson O.O. Zounlome, M.S.Ed.
What drew you to this field?
I was drawn to Counseling Psychology based on the field’s emphasis on multiculturalism and social justice. Regarding prevention work, I saw a way to use multicultural and social justice based interventions to prevent adverse outcomes (e.g., university sexual violence and racial battle fatigue) as well as promote mental wellness, academic persistence, and holistic healing among People of Color and Indigenous Peoples (POCI). Based on my own intersecting privileged and marginalized identities, I find this applied area of research rewarding and personally meaningful.
What are your current research interests and/or projects?
My program of research focuses on combating the impact of intersectional oppression on groups with marginalized identities. Within this framework, I study sexual violence prevention, mental wellness, and academic persistence to promote holistic healing among People of Color and Indigenous Peoples (POCI). Currently, I am leading two scale development projects: a measure of racial battle fatigue as well as a scale measuring how students of color demonstrate persistence while attending predominantly White institutions. For my dissertation, I am experimentally examining the effectiveness of a Black encouragement intervention on university students’ mental health, academic, and intersectional identity-related outcomes. My career goal is to become a researcher and educator focusing on designing, implementing, and testing the effectiveness of culturally centered health-promotion efforts to improve the well-being of those with marginalized identities.
What are your current and past prevention efforts?
In a recent publication, my colleague and I experimentally examined the impact of male undergraduates’ exposure to real anti-sexual assault social norms related to their likelihood of committing sexual assault and future intentions to commit sexual coercion. Our 353 participants were randomly assigned to three conditions—local norms (anti-sexual assault norms based on real male undergraduates at their university), general norms (anti-sexual assault norms based on men in general), and a control. Using multiple regression and planned contrast ANOVAs, we found that local norms significantly decreased students’ likelihood of committing future assaults. Exposure to these norms was particularly effective for those with higher levels of prior sexual perpetration, demonstrating a potential answer for reaching high-risk perpetrators. In sum, this study provides evidence that universities might benefit from implementing male-directed university-specific local norms interventions to help combat sexual aggression on college campuses. To better understand the experiences of understudied populations, my colleagues and I also conducted interviews with Black men and women to understand their unique risk and protective factors in sexual violence prevention. Using a phenomenological approach and intersectional framework, we found that incorporating gendered racism and masculinity stress (for the men), and the historical legacy of racialized trauma against Black women might improve intervention outcomes for these groups. Moving forward, I plan to infuse and build upon these three studies to better reach Black students by creating culturally grounded sexual violence prevention and sexual health promotion interventions that can be manualized, replicated, disseminated, and implemented across U.S. campuses. One such study includes a tailored, local norms anti-sexual assault intervention for Black men. Aligned with the 2017 APA Multicultural Guidelines, I believe such culturally grounded efforts that promote holistic wellness are the future of Counseling Psychology.
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