Tara R. Earl

In Funded Scholars
Tara R. Earl
Tara R. Earl

Tara R.



ICF International

Professional Bio

Dr. Earl’s work focuses on better understanding and improving the quality of mental health care for those who are underserved and underrepresented. Dr. Earl is a 2007 ESIN summer program participant and has benefited greatly from the statistical trainings, professional networking and manuscript development. Through participating in the ESIN summer program, Dr. Earl has collaborated with other summer colleagues on manuscripts and applied the skills from the various trainings to strengthen her analysis skills in her research.

She was the principal investigator of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections grant examining multi-racial and ethnic patient perspectives of good-quality mental health care.

In addition, her research background includes work relating to sibling caregiving practices, public managed care systems and racial and ethnic disparities in mental health treatment. Her work has been published in journals of social work, human behavior, epidemiology and forensic psychology.

Project Description

As clinicians come in contact with an increasingly diverse patient population, they are challenged to provide patient-centered quality care but they confront this not knowing how to identify the important elements of quality care from the patient’s perspective. At the same time, several studies have demonstrated differences in the quality of health care by race and ethnicity. This may be partly due to diverse perspectives in what quality means for different stakeholders. In agreement with Stichler and Weiss, there is still indecision about how to define quality due to its different meanings for consumers, providers and payers. With an emphasis in reducing racially-based disparities in mental health care, the proposed study will employ a multi-racial/ethnic patient-centered approach to better define indicators of good quality care from patients with depression diagnoses (i.e., major depressive disorder, depression NOS or dysthymic disorder). The ultimate goal of this study is to develop an assessment instrument that will enable providers and other stakeholders (i.e., service administrators) to better assess what these diverse patients mean by quality in mental health care. The end objective is to provide care that takes into account the interpersonal needs and preferences of the patient, avoiding mainstream assumptions put forth in the literature.

My New Connections Experience

As an African-American woman who is the first to earn a college degree, master’s and PhD in her family, I feel both obligated and passionate about ensuring that my career choices honor and assist other disadvantaged populations. As a result of the persistent racial and ethnic inequalities in mental health care, particularly for Black Americans, I have chosen to purse a path to becoming a minority mental health researcher. It is through amazing training experiences like the New Connections Initiative and mentorship that I will be able to further my career in ways in ways that I might not have gotten elsewhere.

Applying to New Connections was a perfect fit. The mission of this program is geared towards providing support, resources and excellent opportunities for new investigators to pursue their research goals. In addition to various research and coaching clinics, New Connections resembles a family, a network of supports from all levels who are seriously interested and invested in seeing each of us succeed. To me, having this type of support is vital. New Connections has enabled me to become a stronger minority mental health researcher.

Being a part of New Connections has set me on a positive career trajectory. Seeking and securing research funding is an important and sometimes daunting part of my job as an assistant professor. Joining the New Connections family was more than just securing funding. I was amazed by the level of investment the RWJF team showed us. In addition, securing funding as an incoming assistant professor eased a lot of the burdens. I approached the position equipped to excel and meet a major expectation. Ultimately, I want to be able to integrate science into practice. Being a New Connections grantee is allowing me to make significant contributions to the science and help to improve the overall quality of mental health care for diverse race/ethnic patient populations.

Research Interests

Multi-Racial and Ethnic Issues in Mental Health; Patient Perspectives of Mental Health Care; Patient Provider Interactions; Sibling Caregiving Practices; Severe Mental Illness; Psychotic Disorders.

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2008
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Quality/Equality
  • Project Name: Different Point of View: Multi-Racial/Ethnic
    Patient-Ce ntered Quality of Mental HealthCare

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