Chronic Disease, Development and Educational Outcomes Research Laboratory

General Laboratory Description

Dr. Harris directs the Chronic Disease, Development and Educational Outcomes Research Laboratory, which examines the effects of pediatric chronic disease on developmental and educational outcomes, particularly for youth with asthma and other chronic conditions. The lab is particularly interested in the complications of chronic disease, the unidentified impacts these conditions have on everyday functioning for youth in community and educational contexts, and interventions to support youth with chronic disease. Neighborhoods and environmental characteristics are key factors impacting these relationships; thus, Dr. Harris incorporates the use of geospatial methods to explore the ways in which health disparities, race, income, social processes, and in- and out-of-school factors operate differentially across space to impact student outcomes. The lab is also focused on incorporating methods of implementation science and building community partnerships to address the translation of findings to practice.

General Description of Student Activities

Students will have the opportunity to build their research skills through participation in lab activities such as literature reviews; data collection, management and analysis; quantitative and geospatial analysis; scientific writing; and presentation of results. Students will work on existing lab projects or collaborate with Dr. Harris to identify or develop a related project that fits within the scope and timeline of the research experience. Participation in lab meetings will help students build their understanding of social determinants of health, and health and educational inequity; as well as their clinical and behavioral research skills. Time requirements are in line with the Program in Occupational Therapy expectations.

Examples of Projects

  • Assessing barriers and facilitators to coordinated chronic disease management in schools for youth with asthma
  • Developing implementation strategies and adapting interventions to provide medical and academic supports for youth with chronic disease in schools
  • Examining the spatial relationship between social/contextual factors, health-care utilization and education in asthma and sickle cell disease
  • Determining the relationship between mental health, educational attainment, employment outcomes and pain in sickle cell disease

PhD Mentor Information

Dr. Harris is a health and social scientist, with a background in education, public health, and speech, language, and hearing sciences. She joined the Program in Occupational Therapy as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Allison King’s lab, and continues to work with Dr. King on projects examining the educational impacts of sickle cell disease. Dr. Harris’ research is funded by NHLBI and NCATS. She recently received a KL2 Career Development Award through the Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Science, Clinical Research Training Center to examine the barriers and facilitators of school-based chronic disease management.

Dr. Harris’ research examines the interdependence of chronic disease, child development, and educational outcomes for youth in urban and suburban contexts, and the use of dissemination and implementation science to improve health and educational equity. Using mixed methods, geospatial analysis, and implementation science, her work incorporates neighborhood and environmental factors to examine health disparities, inequity, and educational outcomes among youth, specifically among populations with sickle cell disease and asthma.

Dr. Harris earned her bachelor’s degree in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences from the University of Kansas, and her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Northwestern University. She served several years as a clinical Speech-Language Pathologist providing services in both medical and educational settings. Dr. Harris received her PhD in Education from Washington University in St. Louis, with concentrations in the Social Context of Urban Education, Public Health, and Child Development. Dr. Harris was a recipient of the Lynne Cooper Harvey Fellowship, a Graduate Certificate in American Culture Studies, and an Excellence in Educational Research Award.

Research Foci

  • Understanding the impacts of chronic diseases on academic achievement and attainment, engagement and participation for youth
  • Examining the importance of geography and sociodemographic factors in the dialogue regarding health and educational equity, health-care access, and health-care utilization
  • Conducting regional analyses of healthcare utilization patterns among youth with chronic diseases
  • Identifying non-stationary relationships between social processes, health disparities, in-school factors, and academic achievement and attainment
  • Interrogating large nationally representative data sets to examine health-care access and utilization, family and neighborhood vulnerability, and educational outcomes among youth
  • Developing implementation strategies, and developing and adapting interventions to support school-aged youth with chronic diseases

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