University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Shawn M. Bediako, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he contributes to both the behavioral medicine and the community and applied social psychology programs.
Bediako’s general research interests are concerned with sociocultural aspects of the adult experience of sickle cell disease. Specifically, he examines: 1) social psychological processes that influence public attitudes towards individuals with sickle cell; 2) the influence of such attitudes on the experience of stigma; and 3) the broader impact of macro-level factors such as employment, unemployment and underemployment on persons coping with sickle cell, their families and their communities.
As one of the few social and community health psychologists conducting research exclusively on sickle cell disease, he is producing a unique body of work that utilizes experimental, survey, and qualitative research methods to enhance our understanding of the complexities of adult adjustment to the condition. In 2006, he was appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to the Statewide Steering Committee on Services for Adults with Sickle Cell Disease and currently serves as the committee’s co-chair.
Bediako completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Central Arkansas and received a master’s degree in community psychology from Florida A&M University. He earned a doctorate in social/health psychology from Stony Brook University and was a Carolina Postdoctoral Fellow for Faculty Diversity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
My project examined the influence of employment status on health care use and indices of mental health outcomes (i.e., depression and anxiety) among young adult men with sickle cell disease (SCD), a genetic blood disorder. I used data acquired from the adult cohort of Phase 1 of the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease (CSSCD) – a multi-center, prospective study of the natural history of SCD that was overseen by the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute. The general aim of this project was to describe the nature of the relations among employment status, health care utilization and mental health outcomes over time. Moreover, I investigated whether changes in employment status resulted from, occurred with, or were predictive of changes in health care use and mental health. This project represents what is perhaps the first empirical observation of the impact of employment status on health care use and mental health outcomes among the increasing numbers of young adult men with SCD. I anticipate that the juxtaposition of these findings with nascent research on the social and cultural contexts of adult adjustment to SCD will have the overall impact of suggesting new approaches for enhancing appropriate health care use and improving psychosocial responses among young adults with similar chronic conditions, particularly those conditions that negatively impact the ability to maintain gainful employment.
My New Connections Experience
I learned of New Connections through a friend and colleague who had attended one of the first research and coaching clinics. She raved about this “new” program that was serious about supporting scholars who have historically been on the margins of academic research. After checking out the specifics of the program, I realized that her level of enthusiasm was not an overstatement. I applied to New Connections because the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation not only communicated an interest in diversifying its grant-making opportunities, but more importantly, they demonstrated their commitment by providing scientific and career development opportunities to a cadre of scholars who may not have had such exposure in their respective institutions. Furthermore, the vulnerable populations portfolio was specifically interested in the health of young men of color and I saw this as a viable opportunity to expand my research involving young men with sickle cell anemia to a larger audience and wider platform.
Being a New Connections grantee has given me a new-found sense of confidence, competence and consciousness: confidence in my ability to learn and acquire new skills; competence in my ability to apply those skills in novel and creative ways; and consciousness in understanding that my scholarship should be used in ways that help resolve pressing problems that face our society. I feel that New Connections has taught me how to be a conduit through which opportunities are created for those who are coming after me.
My primary research interests focus on cultural, social and interpersonal processes that influence psychological adjustment and health outcomes among adults with sickle cell disease.
I recently completed a mixed-methods study exploring the education and employment experiences of a sample of adults living with sickle cell disease. The aim of this study was to generate data that could possibly provide insight into the sex differences in employment that I found in the New Connections-supported study. I have also begun a qualitative study examining the relation between social constructions of masculinity and self-care behaviors among young adult men with sickle cell.
- New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
- Award Year: 2008
- RWJF Team/Portfolio: Vulnerable Populations
- Project Name: Employment Status, Health Care Utilization, and Mental Health Outcomes among Young Adult Men with Sickle Cell Disease