In an ideal world, everyone would have equal access to good health care. But in reality, racial and interpersonal discrimination impact health and health care, and there continue to be significant inequities. Rebekka Lee ’04 wants to change this situation: “I want to explore the psychological impacts of interpersonal discrimination,” she says, “and how they lead to a physiological embodiment of unfair treatment. I hope to study how discrimination manifests itself in cardiovascular disease and how different types of discrimination build upon and impact one another.”
Lee is currently working on a master’s in public health at Harvard in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health and plans to eventually earn a doctorate. For the past three years, she’s also worked on an evaluation of an afterschool nutrition and physical activity intervention within YMCA programs. This project has cultivated her desire to develop effective implementation strategies for community-based interventions.
Her “strong interest in conducting research and a passion for understanding and working against the psychological impacts of racism” began when Lee was a psychology major at Mount Holyoke. Her senior thesis focused on measuring the race and social class biases that develop during childhood and creating educational tools to combat these prejudices.
Developing her own independent project while at Mount Holyoke confirmed Lee’s desire for a career in research and, she says, “led to an incredibly supportive mentorship with Professor Patricia Ramsey.” It also led to publication and valuable professional experience: in 2005, she presented her findings at the American Educational Research Association conference and subsequently published a piece with Ramsey and Barbara Sweeney of MHC’s Gorse Child Study Center in Young Children.