MHDI FACULTY SPOTLIGHT
Alian Kasabian Research Assistant Professor and Director of the Methodology and Evaluation Research Core Facility
Date that you joined UNL: Aug 2008 as a student, May 2015 as staff, and Aug 2016 as faculty.
Hometown: Moved around a lot – but came here from Orange, CA.
Describe your research and how it contributes to alleviating or understanding health disparities?
My own research is on survey questions, and making surveys more inclusive - providing space for respondents to tell us who they are. When surveyors limit identity questions to the most common categories, we create data that is inaccurate and reinforce disparities in all areas of life, including health care. In my professional roles, I encourage researchers to include and look at differences based on people’s social locations (such as race, sex, income), and advocate for more collaboration with smaller population groups, so they can tell their own stories, and work together to collect the best data.
Growing up poor/working class, I was part of and witnessed a great deal of inequality. My focus has never been strictly on health, but it is impossible to separate other disparities from health. So while I started graduate school focused on gender disparities in the labor force, those disparities are linked in very real ways to differential treatment and access of health care, which are further complicated by race, class, sexual orientation, etc. It is all tied together.
What advice would you give to incoming students (graduate or undergraduate) who are interested in studying health disparities?
Even if you are sure what you want to focus on, use the interwebs and look for faculty, staff, and student and community groups that sound interesting. Go talk to them, ask what they are doing, and get recommendations for learning more or getting involved. Follow them on social media and go to events. There are a lot of opportunities on a college campus, but most of them you have to seek out. They aren’t usually searching for you.
What advice would you give to incoming faculty who are interested in health disparity research?
Get involved in MHDI! Check out the different faculty support resources there are on campus. The Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium has a writing group that meets weekly. The Office of Research and Economic Development has many resources for people who want to apply for grants that are offered every year – which is great when you are overwhelmed your first year. Many colleges have their own activities and resources you can take advantage of. Look around.
What would your colleagues/students be surprised to learn about you?
At 5’9”, I am the 2nd shortest person in my family. Alternately – that I haven’t chosen my own hair color in years. I don’t know that either are that surprising to colleagues? Or I’ve been to all 50 states?