Researchers all across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus are working toward advancing knowledge and creating solutions to critical health disparities on both local and global scales. These researchers evaluate health disparities from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives, and work to find ways to address the discrepancies within medicine, child development, law, food access, education, and health communication. Each Researcher Spotlight features a health disparities researcher doing important work right here at Illinois.
Carla D. Hunter, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Carla D. Hunter, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and the principal investigator of the Cultural Heritage and Racial Identity Lab. She is also a member of the Community Healing and Resistance Through Storytelling (C-HeARTS) Collaborative. Through her research, she seeks to identify and analyze individual factors that characterize ethnic minority individuals’ experiences of resilience and risk in the U.S. racial context. She and her students have been recognized for their scholarly contributions to the fields of African American Psychology, Counseling Psychology, and Social Psychology. In 2015, Dr. Hunter received the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) Kenneth and Mamie Clark award for her outstanding contribution to the professional development of ethnic minority graduate students. Prof. Hunter earned her doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology from Columbia University.
What is your research in health disparities about?
Within health disparities research, I focus on minority health. I am interested in the social and emotional well-being of individuals who identify as Black: specifically the social and emotional costs of racism, such as depression and anxiety. I explore ethnic and cultural factors that may mitigate or heighten well-being. The inclusion of British Caribbean Americans (and Black immigrants in general) is an important area of my research focused on ethnic factors. That is, Black immigrants' migration into the U.S. provides a unique opportunity to investigate identity, acculturation, and well-being. In my research on cultural factors, I have explored what roles shared beliefs and cultural values have played in attitudes toward help-seeking and well-being outcomes.
How are you conducting your research?
I have employed both quantitative and qualitative approaches to pursue these lines of research. The quantitative approaches I use involve collecting cross-sectional data through survey and self-report measures as well as experimental designs. My qualitative research involves the use of storytelling as an overarching framework that guides listening to and affirming storytellers’ lived experiences.
How does being a part of the Illinois community support and enhance your research?
Being part of the Illinois community has been great because of the opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations. I have learned a great deal speaking with my colleagues in other departments and colleges. I am also often amazed by how much our programs of research overlap yet are distinct enough to make substantive contributions toward understanding the many factors that will help us achieve health equity.
How will your research or work improve society or reach people?
My hope is that my research findings will be utilized to inform identity theory and culturally relevant treatment interventions. I disseminate my research findings through academic journals, professional conference presentations, and community engagement presentations in the local area and to the university community.
Do you have a personal story to share or path that led to your interest in this area of study?
At a recent symposium for a professional conference, an audience member expressed curiosity about the experiences that led to this line of research. I was excited to share with him that I am an immigrant and as a child I was socialized in immigrant and non-immigrant communities. I wanted to understand how ethnic identity and cultural values played a role in stigma and hesitance toward treatment-seeking that I observed. Moreover, I realized that the experiences of Black immigrants were missing from this literature and without fully understanding the ethnic heterogeneity within the Black racial group, psychological outreach and intervention efforts would not be culturally competent or address disparities. I am interested in this area of study to address gaps in minority health research and facilitate the health of Black communities.