The latest rounds of seed grant funding from the George Washington University’s Institute for Racial, Ethnic and Socioeconomic Equity (Equity Institute) have enabled two projects that will help explicate and address health care disparities for Asian Americans. Projects led by Adrienne Poon, an associate professor of medicine in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Juh Hyun Shin, an associate professor in the School of Nursing, will further the Equity Institute’s established mission: to create actionable new knowledge and to educate citizen leaders dedicated to the eradication of racial, ethnic and economic inequality in the United States and worldwide. This brings the total number of research grants funded by the Equity Institute to 13 projects across nine of GW’s colleges and schools.
In less than a year since its chartering, the Equity Institute has been able to fund the creation of new knowledge in community based, equity research with over $650,000 in seed grants to GW researchers and community partners. The institute also has convened equity experts from a range of disciplines inside and outside the university—first at its inaugural research showcase in fall 2022 and later at a workshop in spring 2023—to kickstart conversations and collaborations in the field.
Seed funding provided to GW researchers by the Equity Institute
GW schools with researchers working on Equity Institute-funded projects
“Our goal is to solidify George Washington University’s social justice impact within our immediate community of Washington, D.C., nationally and around the world. Inequality is the globe’s most pressing social challenge and the Equity Institute aims to bring the resources of a premiere, AAU research unity to bear on finding solutions,” said Dayna Bowen Matthew, Dean and Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at GW Law and the Equity Institute’s founding director.
Poon’s project leverages both her academic work and her role as president of OCA-DC, an advocacy organization serving Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities in the greater Washington, D.C., area. With the Equity Institute funding, she and her partners will work to establish a local health equity network linking community members with trained health professionals and institutions for better education and ultimately better research.
“There’s historically been a separation between academics and community members as far as research, when from my perspective the ultimate goal of that research should be to help support and serve the communities that we're working with,” Poon said.
One of the many benefits of this network will be its ability to provide differentiated data about disparate populations that are too often lumped together into a monolithic “model minority” by outside researchers, Poon said. Part of the Equity Institute funding will go toward developing a “needs assessment,” distributing surveys to local Asian American communities to surface their existing needs and concerns.
“Communities can really help drive research, because they have the best insight into what needs have to be addressed most urgently,” Poon said.
Shin’s project addresses an already-established need: increased nursing staff shortages in elder care homes. As the American population ages, these shortages are likely to exacerbate existing racialized gaps in quality of health care. Shin, who has worked as a full-time nurse at a nursing home in Korea and interned in the United States, hopes this may be an area that technology can help address. To that end, Shin is developing a bilingual “Clinical Decision Support System for nursing home nurses”—a tool that will help English- and Korean-speaking nurses through the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association (NANDA) to promote effective nursing processes and interventions.
“Especially in long-term care settings, we are very short of professional nurses around the world,” Shin said. “So technology may be a way to fill the gaps.”
Shin’s tool, which she is developing with Chung Hyuk Park of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, will not replace or bypass human expertise. Rather, it provides quick access to customized nursing home scenarios with databases of knowledge on particular NANDA interventions and measurable outcomes to help nurses decide on appropriate care paths. This efficiency in information access frees up time for personalized care, which in turn creates higher quality of life for residents.
“The dignity and individuality of residents in nursing homes should be very protected,” Shin said.
Both projects are exemplars of the work the Equity Institute was established to do, Matthew said.
“Drs. Shin and Poon are engaged in work that combines technology and medicine to tangibly impact under-represented communities. We believe that by seed-funding their research, these studies will attract additional external funding, and grow the knowledge base needed to eradicate racial disparities in health.”