Q&A with HSC's Dr. Uyen-Sa D. T. Nguyen recipient of the HSC Research Enhancement Assistance Program New Investigator Pilot Grant Award.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Dr. NguyenDr. Nguyen is an associate professor, population and community health, at The University of North Texas Health Science Center’s School of Public Health. She recently received a new pilot grant and donation from an HSC Foundation donor to support her research. Here, she talks about this new funding for her work.

Q: Dr. Nguyen, what are the details on your new research funding?

A: I am incredibly honored and privileged to be a recipient of the 2024 HSC Research Enhancement Assistance Program New Investigator Pilot Grant Award. The funded project is titled “The Viet-American National Databank Pilot Study.

I am also honored to have received a separate $5,000 donation from a UNTHSC Foundation supporter geared toward my research efforts.

Q: How will the REAP grant and HSC Foundation research funding be used?

A: The funding will allow us to address several study aims: a) translate, validate and pre-test linguistically and culturally appropriate questionnaires for Vietnamese Americans who have limited English proficiency; b) pilot-test these questionnaires in a sample of Vietnamese Americans with rheumatic conditions living in Texas and California, two states with the highest concentrations of Vietnamese speakers outside of Vietnam.

The REAP Award will help us obtain pilot data and prepare for a national study to identify and ascertain factors associated with rheumatic conditions in Vietnamese Americans, an underserved and understudied population.

Jerry and Diana Jackson are the generous UNTHSC Foundation donors on behalf of Dr. Kathryn Dao, a colleague and crucial collaborator on the VNDB Pilot Study. Dr. Dao and I wish to further our understanding of factors associated with rheumatic diseases in Vietnamese Americans, including autoimmune diseases.

Q: What is unique about your work/research?

A: Health disparities in Asian Americans are hidden, due to all people of Asian descent being combined into one category in most research studies.  Many national studies also exclude non-English speakers. A subpopulation that fares better than other subpopulations may skew the results overall and continue to perpetuate the “Model Minority” myth.

Vietnamese Americans are one of the largest foreign-born groups in the U.S. We have a higher proportion of people with limited English proficiency and a lower proportion of people with a college education than most other Asian American subpopulations. More than 2/3 of Vietnamese Americans over five years of age have limited English proficiency. There are critical gaps in understanding factors that impact health disparities in Vietnamese Americans. Results from my REAP-funded project will provide much-needed pilot data to help us prepare for a wider and more extensive study to find ways to help improve the health and lives of this vulnerable, hard-to-reach and understudied population.

Q: How is your work impacting healthier communities and the vision of the SPH?

A: Understanding factors that impact health disparities in Vietnamese Americans can help us develop better and more targeted interventions to improve the health and lives of this marginalized population. The lessons learned may also help address health equities in other marginalized racial/ethnic groups, particularly in immigrant communities.

Q: What led you to the field of public health?

A: I have always been interested in science, trying to understand the why and how. After several years of working as a research assistant in basic science research, I found my true calling in the field of epidemiology and population-based research. Being in public health forced me to think beyond epidemiologic research methods, and to think of problems and potential solutions as multi-pronged, involving multi-disciplinary teams to help make research findings relevant to improving the health and lives of communities at the local, national and global level.

Q: What do you most enjoy about working in the field of public health and at HSC?

A: My work in the field of public health in general, and at HSC more specifically, involves being a lifelong learner, and contributing to the field and HSC as an educator, a researcher and a volunteer. Solving complex public health issues can be a lifelong journey. Working with people who genuinely care and are truly decent human beings makes all the difference in the world!

Q: Anything else you wish to share?

A: I am grateful to HSC REAP, the Jacksons, and being a part of the HSC and School of Public Health communities!


From HSC Newsroom - Our People by Sally Crocker