Brandi Barnes, PhD

1/18/2022 11:00:00 AM

Brandi Barnes uses mental health background to inform health equity work on campus

Brandi Barnes, PhD
Brandi Barnes

Brandi Barnes, PhD, is a research development manager at IHSI and leads the Health Equity Core. We asked Brandi to share more about her role and offer advice for researchers seeking to add a health equity lens to their work.  

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
My background is in community health, more specifically mental health and barriers to care whether that is in the form of stigma around accessing services or general barriers to treatment. I received my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees here at the university. I was very excited to come back and join the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute in November 2018 as a research development manager focused on health equity. My current role includes assisting faculty with research efforts addressing health disparities and planning and delivering events on the topic. Prior to coming back to the university in 2018, I spent the last 13 years at a behavioral treatment facility where I helped train clinical staff on an evidence-based model used in addiction treatment. I gained a lot of knowledge on the benefits of culturally responsive care which has provided an excellent foundation for my continued work in addressing disparities in different populations.

What are some examples of your contributions to grant proposal development on campus? 
Along with the IHSI Research Development Core, I have assisted several faculty members with research efforts focused on achieving equity in health. This often takes the form of bringing collaborators together from different colleges or departments on campus as well as linking them to local community organizations. We provide assistance with the application process and often read proposals and provide edits based on the needs of the specific call. The RD Core has recently assisted several faculty and community research teams with submissions to the Call to Action campus initiative to encourage and support research efforts that address structures of racism and injustice.

What other research development efforts are you involved in? 
Most recently, I have been able to provide my services not only in the grant application process but also as a co-investigator on two research projects both focused on the role of community health workers and the populations they serve. Both initiatives will look at developing standardized training programs for these workers that also remain flexible and culturally appropriate. One project will utilize the services of our BERD core to assist with data management and evaluation.

Tell us about your passions or any projects or activities that you are particularly excited about right now.
I’m very excited about an upcoming event that we are planning, called Achieving Equity: Mental Health. Throughout my studies here on campus I have always been fascinated by the relationship between physical and mental health and how differently they are viewed and treated. It is very exciting to be able to dive into this topic even more this coming semester. We will bring together campus researchers, local community members, and project officers from the National Institute of Mental Health. The goal is to look at mental health as it affects the local community, current research on the topic, and how to secure funding to make sure to bridge the gap between the two. We see this as an opportunity to learn the needs of the local community in terms of mental health and ways that campus can assist and engage. Stay tuned for more details! 

What’s your favorite aspect of your work?
I really enjoy meeting with individuals on campus and in the community and learning more of their work in terms of health and health equity. There is such great work being done locally but oftentimes it seems like this work is occurring in silos. The ability to bring together two individuals who might not have known they had similar interests and similar research topics is always very fulfilling. I like when I am able to link researchers together and they continue that collaboration in pursuit of addressing health disparities.

What advice do you have for beginning, mid-career, and/or established health sciences researchers?
That there are a lot of resources on campus to assist with their research! Between IHSI, CSBS, and OPD, there are several units on campus that can provide a variety of different services all geared towards research faculty on campus. Additionally, there are ways that IHSI can assist researchers who wish to add an equity lens to their work. Please reach out to us if you would like to discuss further how to accomplish this!

You can contact Brandi at