ULM’s SSRL Works To Help The Pink

From The Psychology Times, Vol 3, No 3

– S. Lowery, Times Intern

The Social Science Research Laboratory (SSRL) at the University of Louisiana at Monroe recently assisted the Northeast-Central Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation in developing their 2011 “Community Profile for Northeast and Central Louisiana.”

The “Community Profile” is created every two years and aims to assess the breast health needs and barriers in different areas of the state. The survey, along with other projects, support the Komen mission to raise awareness of breast health issues, educate the community, and raise funds for education, treatment, and research.

“This is the third Komen Community Profile for the SSRL,” the SSRL Co-founder Dr. Joseph McGahan told the Times. Dr. McGahan is a Psychology Professor at the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) and co- directs the lab’s community psychology projects.

“We helped Shreveport-Bossier [Northwest Affiliate for the Susan G. Komen Foundation] with data analysis,” Dr. McGahan noted. “We helped direct the Northeast Affiliate from top-to-bottom, and we helped Alexandria this time in two ways– assisting in both survey analysis and telephone interviews.”

Through this most recent effort, the SSRL helped the Northeast and Central Affiliate in two areas of their profile.

First, a group of three undergraduate students, led by ULM senior Matt Van, entered and analyzed data obtained from a community survey previously administered by the Foundation. The survey asked questions related to breast cancer treatment options, potential barriers to treatment, and awareness.

“Komen supplied us with close to 600 surveys that had been previously administered,” said Matt Van. “As a team, we inputted all of the surveys and myself and Logan Hale analyzed the data and produced reports on it according to Komen’s requests.” Matt has worked in the SSRL lab since 2010.

The second part of the project involved conducting phone interviews with breast cancer survivors. The structured interview, created by Shannon Manning and Amanda Ardoin, was designed to assess why late detection rates for breast cancer are so high in the area.

Amanda told the Times, “I have felt the pain of families whose lives were changed by the loss of their mother, wife, sister…. And it was enough to move me into action when presented with the opportunity.”

The analysis by Ardoin and Manning revealed important issues. “The results indicated that the barrier to early intervention lies not it medical access or lack of cancer awareness information, but in the connection between information and emotion,” said Ardoin, “Without a woman’s gut level awareness of her statistical vulnerability to the potentially lethal condition of breast cancer, motivation for early detection appears to be missing.”

The SSRL offers training in social and community psychology explained Dr. McGahan. “In addition to experience collecting and analyzing data,” he said, “students have written reports and, in some cases, served as project leaders. Add to that, they are working on community-based research. In this case, dealing with health related issues –which is a natural for many psychology majors. Hopefully, along the way, students are discovering they can be helpful to others as a result of research –as opposed to “the talk” associated with clinical and/or counseling psychology.”

Matt Van echoes that sentiment. “The main thing that interested me in this project was the chance to gain true research experience. I had only previously worked in research lightly so I was excited to work with the large amount of data that was promised with this project. I learned a lot about data management and data analysis. Managing and analyzing almost 600 surveys wasn’t easy at first but I learned first-hand how to solve all of the problems that arose and got very comfortable with the process.”

For more information, visit the affiliate’s website at http://www.komennecla.org/. And for more information about ULM SSRL go to www.ulm.edu/ssrl

(Shane Lowery, MA, is an IO graduate student at LSU, previous student at ULM, and Psychology Times Intern.)

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