Connecting the social and built environment to health and health inequalities

Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Racism & Health Inequities (RacismLab)

Reflections on RacismLab from the 2020 MLK Symposium


Information on the 2021 RacismLab MLK Symposium

The American social structure is composed of a resilient, symbiotic network of the formal and informal institutions that operate to maintain an equilibrium toward White privilege. Across time and place, changes in one institution can reverberate to other institutions, and importantly, when we attempt to intervene toward equity in one institution, other institutions will move into restore this toxic equilibrium. This equilibrium, fundamentally set by cultural racism of the dominant power group, encompasses the socially accepted ideologies, values, and behavioral norms. Particularly insidious as it operates on the level of our shared social subconscious, the processes that comprise cultural racism are invisible to many because they are our “givens”, our assumptions, our defaults – but the result shapes our answers to the question: Whose life counts?

Our 6th annual University of Michigan RacismLab Symposium on the Study of Racism, we pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. James Jackson, whose mentorship guided our first annual symposium in 2015 and resulted in our guest edited Social Science and Medicine special issue on cultural and structural racism. In our introduction to this special issue, we called for all scholarship on race and health to be grounded in interdisciplinary frameworks of cultural and structural racism and critical race theory.

With our 2021 symposium, we expand this discussion to focus on the ways in which structural racism is linked to population health through the connections among institutions and between history and the present. We are honored to have as our keynote speaker Dr. Eduardo Bonilla Silva, a pioneer in the study of structural racism and the ways in which it is sustained and perpetuated over place and time.

Our annual symposium continues to be sponsored by the University of Michigan Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research. For our virtual meeting in 2021, we partner with the Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science (IAPHS) to move our discussions to a national stage.

This event is free but registration is required. Please register at:
You will receive an email with the Zoom meeting link to join the symposium throughout the event day.

Toxic Equilibrium 2021 RacismLab poster


The toxicity of racism has long been understood by communities of color. With the growth of camera phones and social media, there has been a rapid growth in the public documentation and discussion of racism in the US. Within the University community, there is a growing interest across multiple disciplines to systematically document the linkages between racism and social, economic, political, and health-related resources and constraints. Nevertheless, there continues to be a lack of clarity about the ways in which racism affects the lives of people of color, making intervention challenging. This lack of clarity stems from little integration of scientific knowledge and collaboration across disciplines to foster sophisticated theory development and hypothesis testing. Therefore, we have created a transdisciplinary research collective to bring together doctoral students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty to develop innovative theoretical frameworks and empirical approaches to better understand the impact of racism on health and well-being (very broadly defined).

In addition to regular working group meetings, we convene annual campus-wide events on the conceptualization and measurement of race and racism at the Institute for Social Research and participate in writing retreats.

Previous RacismLab Symposia

Cultural Racism and American Social Structure

Structural Racism: Nikole Hannah-Jones

Race at the Intersection

On the Study of Racism

Claudia Rankine on Citizen

Cultural & Structural Racism

Graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior faculty from any scientific discipline who are interested in research on racism and committed to participating in all meetings are welcome to join our core working group membership.


Margaret Hicken

Margaret Hicken


Research Assistant Professor, Institute for Social Research

More about Margaret

Through her entire research program, Professor Hicken committed to clarifying the social causes and biological mechanisms linking racial group membership to renal and cardiovascular disease inequalities. The major hallmark of her research is the integration of scientific knowledge from diverse disciplines, as this transdisciplinary approach to research allows for creative and innovative insights into the root causes and mechanisms of the seemingly intractable racial health inequalities. A significant portion of her research program falls at the intersection of sociology, geography, and environmental toxicology, examining the interrelated roles of racial residential segregation, neighborhood disadvantage, environmental hazards, and racial health inequalities.

Email: mhicken (at) umich (dot) edu

Gabrielle Peterson

Gabrielle Peterson

Co-coordinator 2020-2021

Doctoral student, Department of Sociology

More about Gabrielle

Gabrielle completed her studies in Sociology and Education & Child Study at Smith College in May of 2016. After a summer of teaching in 2013 she realized she was interested in researching racial and ethnic identity among Black people in America. The following semester she started research on race in education, with special attention to the salience of ethnic identities amongst Black college students. She is pursuing her doctorate in Sociology at the University of Michigan to delve further into studies of Black history and race relations. Her current project is a study of Black migration to and integration of Washtenaw County in Michigan. She is pursuing a career in research in order to use history to evaluate the contemporary impacts of “the color line” for Black people in different sites they have settled across the African Diaspora.

Email: glpeters [at] umich [dot] edu


Ramona Perry

Ramona Perry

Co-coordinator 2020-2021

Doctoral candidate in the joint program in social work and social psychology

More about Ramona

Ramona Perry is a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan in the joint program in social work and social psychology. Her research interests fall along two related lines of inquiry. The first deals distinctly with health care experiences and resulting outcomes for African American men, and the second is concerned with revealing the mechanism by which experiences with racism and discrimination negatively impact physical health outcomes and health behaviors among African Americans. She also has an interest in understanding patient engagement behaviors among African Americans and the correlates of active healthcare involvement.
As a woman of color, she is passionate about honoring and fostering diversity and has contributed to pipeline training efforts, cultural awareness training, and is a trainee in the professional development certificate in DEI from Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School.

Email: ramonagp (at) umich (dot) edu

Riana Anderson

Riana Anderson

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education

More about Riana

Riana Elyse Anderson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. She received her PhD in Clinical and Community Psychology at the University of Virginia and completed a Clinical and Community Psychology Doctoral Internship at Yale University’s School of Medicine. She also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Applied Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania supported by the Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations. Before joining the University of Michigan, she was an Assistant Professor in Preventive Medicine and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California.

She uses mixed methods in clinical interventions to study racial discrimination and socialization in Black families to reduce racial stress and trauma and improve psychological well-being and family functioning. She investigates how protective familial mechanisms such as parenting and racial socialization operate in the face of risks linked to poverty, discrimination, and residential environment. Dr. Anderson is particularly interested in how these factors predict familial functioning and subsequent child psychosocial outcomes, especially when enrolled in family-based interventions. She has recently developed a five-session intervention entitled EMBRace (Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race) to alleviate racial stress and trauma in parents and adolescents in order to facilitate healthy parent-child relationships, parent and adolescent psychological well-being, and healthy coping strategies.

Email: rianae [at] umich [dot] edu

Shanice Battle

Shanice Battle

Doctoral student, Department of Epidemiology

More about Shanice

Shanice Battle is a PhD student at the School of Public Health in the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health. She previously worked at the CDC, Morehouse School of Medicine and Emory School of Medicine on various research projects focusing on the prevention of HIV/AIDS, childhood obesity, cardiovascular disease and maternal substance abuse. Her current research focuses on structural factors as a predictor of depression in black women and the ways social supports or stressors can impact that relationship.

Email: battlesd [at] umich [dot] edu


Kiana Bess

Kiana Bess

Doctoral student, Health Behavior and Health Education (HBHE) department

More about Kiana

Kiana is a doctoral student in the Health Behavior and Health Education (HBHE) department in the School of Public Health. Her research interests include examining the intersection between systemic discriminatory policies and neighborhood influences on health outcomes in urban populations, particularly among African American children and adolescents. Prior to matriculating into the doctoral program she worked at Duke University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on various health equity research projects.

Email: kbess [at] umich [dot] edu


Melissa Creary

Melissa Creary

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Management and Policy

More about Melissa

Melissa’s research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of public health, science and technology studies, and medical anthropology. She studies the social, cultural, ethical, political and historic tensions of sickle cell disease (SCD) in both the United States and Brazil. In her most recent project, she analyzes how frameworks of biology, social determinants, and policy respond to Brazilian cultural and historical ideas about race, health, identity, and legitimacy.

Email: mcreary [at] umich [dot] edu



Myles I. Durkee

Myles I. Durkee

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

More about Myles

Dr. Myles Durkee is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. He earned a B.A. in Psychology from Pomona College and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science from the University of Virginia. He also completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan. Dr. Durkee’s research examines cultural invalidations and identity threats to determine how these experiences are associated with important psychological outcomes (e.g., mental health, identity development, & academic achievement). He also examines the process of identity development during late adolescents and emerging adulthood to determine how social identities are influenced by interpersonal experiences (e.g., racial microaggressions) and environmental factors (e.g., school contexts & racial climate). His research has been published in multiple research journals including: Child Development Perspectives, American Educational Research Journal, Social Science and Medicine, Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, and The Journal of Black Psychology.

Email: mdurkee (at) umich (dot) edu

Harley Dutcher

Harley Dutcher

Doctoral student, Joint Program in Psychology and Women’s Studies

More about Harley

Harley’s research interests focus on how young people imagine their health and well-being in the contexts of social messages they receive about gender, bodies, and sex. She is interested in how they may interpret and internalize these messages as they develop their own ideas about what it means to have, or not have, health.

Email: dutcherh [at] umich [dot] edu

Michael Esposito

Michael Esposito

Post-doctoral fellow, Social Environment and Health Program

More about Michael

Michael (Mike) Esposito is a postdoctoral fellow at the Survey Research Center, University of Michigan. Mike received his PhD in sociology from the University of Washington. His work is, generally, pointed towards advancing ideas of how race matters in population health. His work: (1) explicates how/why disparities in health outcomes are generated among the United States population (rather than in only quantifying the size of said inequalities); (2) connects larger structural features that are related to race (e.g., mass incarceration; racial residential segregation; socio-cultural environments) to health outcomes and disparities; and (3) examines how other socio-locational features that organize US society—e.g., gender; skin-tone—intersect with race to stratify health.

Email: esposm (at) umich (dot) edu

Kayla Fike

Kayla Fike

Doctoral student, Joint Program in Psychology and Women’s

More about Kayla

Kayla’s research interests are in the effects of oppression/privilege on minority groups’ mental health, especially African Americans and women. She is also interested in the development of a multicultural identity in young minority groups. She would like to study the effects of positive psychology practices on these issues.

Email: kjfike [at] umich [dot] edu


Jennifer Gómez

Jennifer Gómez

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development (MPSI), Wayne State University, and Center for Institutional Courage

More about Jennifer

Jennifer M. Gómez, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development (MPSI) at Wayne State University and Board Member & Chair of the Research Committee at the Center for Institutional Courage—a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming institutional approaches and responses to trauma and inequality. She earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 2017 from University of Oregon. She has published over 60 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, scholarly writings, and pieces for the general public. Additionally, she is the lead co-editor of a special issue of Journal of Trauma & DissociationDiscrimination, Violence, & Healing in Marginalized Communities (anticipated publication date: Spring 2021). Her research has been recognized by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and funded by the Ford Foundation Fellowship Programs and Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research (MCUAAAR). By focusing on societal inequality’s role on the impact of violence for marginalized youth, young adults, and elders, Dr. Gómez uses her cultural betrayal trauma theory to both document harm and identify avenues of hope and healing for youth, families, communities, institutions, and society. 


Asya Harrison

Asya Harrison

Doctoral student, Combined Program in Education and Psychology

More about Asya

Asya Harrison is a Doctoral Candidate and National Science Foundation Fellow in the Combined Program of Education and Psychology at the University of Michigan. Her research explores three main questions; a) how do African American youth’s race-related school experiences influence their racial identity development, b) how does social hierarchy shape the racialized messages parents tell their children, and c) how do the spaces African American families occupy shape the conversations they have about race? Current research projects examine two aspects of parenting.  The first aspect is related to African American parental involvement in schools. The second aspect is related to how African American parental racial socialization changes as adolescents transition from middle to high school.

Email: asyaah (at) umich (dot) edu

Gabriel Johnson

Gabriel Johnson

Doctoral student in the School of Public Health

More about Gabriel

Gabriel is a PhD student in the Health Behavior Health Education department at the School of Public Health and a Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar. He has worked globally with community organizations in Zambia and Kenya, developing interventions and supporting capacity building. Previously, he worked as a seventh grade teacher, harm reduction specialist, and HIV prevention researcher with the Ballroom community in Chicago and Philadelphia. His current research explores the intersections of race/ism, gender, and sexuality through examining negotiation of masculinities and their influence on the mental, physical and overall well-being of BlaQ men and masculine of center (MoC) individuals.


Lewis Miles

Lewis Miles

Doctoral student in the Department of Sociology

More about Lewis

Lewis Miles is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan. He is primarily interested in medical sociology, racial disparities in health, and how structural racism shapes health in the life course. He is a pre-doctoral social demography trainee at the Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research and affiliated with the Program for Research on Black American and the transdisciplinary RacismLab collective housed by the Social Environment and Health Program.

Email: lewmiles (at) umich (dot) edu


Kyle Nisbeth

Kyle Nisbeth

Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health

More about Kyle

Kyle Nisbeth is a doctoral candidate in the department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, a Rackham Merit Fellow and a Population Studies Trainee. She received her Master’s of Public Health from the University of North Carolina in 2017. Broadly she is interested in exploring the impact of racism on Black womanhood and parenthood. Her current research focuses on parental racial worries and their impact on biological stress indicators and mental health health outcomes.

Email: knisbeth (at) umich (dot) edu


Amel Omari

Amel Omari

Doctoral student, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education

More about Amel

Amel Omari is a Doctoral Candidate in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Her dissertation research asks how racism constrains the health benefits of citizenship for migrants from Africa to France. Methodologically, Amel is interested in how the utility of quantitative analysis can be maximized by incorporating historical and social understandings of race. Understanding the contributions of racialization and migration to the health of migrants is critical to informing migration policies to promote health and health equity.

Email: oamel (at) umich (dot) edu


Ketlyne Sol

Ketlyne Sol

Post-doctoral fellow, Department of Psychology and Social Environment and Health Program

More about Ketlyne

Dr. Ketlyne Sol is a clinical psychologist with a clinical training emphasis in rehabilitation psychology, which focuses on the holistic assessment and treatment of individuals with chronic/progressive disabling illness and acquired/traumatic physical disability. Trained within a scientist-practitioner framework, she is interested in evaluating psychosocial factors, contextual factors such as sociocultural and physical environment, and processes to help improve coping and quality of life of individuals with physical disabilities. Due to the disproportionate amounts of older adult ethnic minorities who develop Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD), she is further leveraging her clinical training and research experiences to additionally develop her skill and expertise in conducting research in disparities in ADRD to inform culturally relevant points of intervention and policy changes to reduce this disparity in aging.

Email: ksol (at) umich (dot) edu

Dominique Sylvers

Dominique Sylvers

Doctoral student, Department of Health Behavior and Health

More about Dominique

Dominique Sylvers is a doctoral student in the Health Behavior and Health Education (HBHE) at the School of Public Health. She received her Master’s of Public Health from HBHE in 2017, after which, she was involved with various aspects of chronic disease intervention research. As a pre-doctoral trainee in Social Environment and Health (SEH), her interest center around cognitive aging in African American adults, specifically the contextual influence of environmental factors such as of neighborhood residential segregation and education inequality. Dominique also has an interest in Population Health and is a Population Studies Center Trainee.

Email: domed (at) umich (dot) edu


Channing MathewsChanning Mathews

PhD, Education and Psychology
Co-coordinator 2018-2020
Courtney McCluneyCourtney McCluney
PhD Psychology
Coordinator 2015-2016

Aresha Martinez-CardosoAresha Martinez
PhD Health Behavior and Health Education

Kristen M. BrownKristen Brown
PhD Epidemiology
Kate DuchownyKate Duchowny
PhD Epidemiology
Linnea EvansLinnea Evans
PhD Health Behavior and Health Education
Angela BrunsAngela Bruns
Post-doctoral fellow, Population Studies Center
Nia Heard-GarrisNia Heard-Garris
MD Pediatrics
Amy Ko (Westmoreland)Amy Ko (Westmorland)
PhD Psychology
Nicole Kravitz-WirtzNicole Kravitz-Wirtz
PhD Sociology
Nicole NovakNicole Novak
PhD Epidemiology
Amanda Richardson Onwuka
PhD Epidemiology

Regan PattersonRegan Patterson