Wells is health disparities scholar

Rachel Wells earns spot in UAB MHRC Health Disparities Research Education Award Certificate Program

Photo: Rachel Wells By Hunter Carter

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing postdoctoral fellow Rachel Wells, PhD, MSN, RN (MSN 2010, PhD 2019), is a 2021-2022 scholar for the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center’s Health Disparities Research Education Award Certificate Program.

HDREP supports early career researchers as they develop as independent researchers. Through this one-year program, participants develop a grant application in health disparities research related to obesity, cancer, aging, cardiovascular disease, HIV and other conditions. They also receive individualized mentored training, instruction in scientific research methodology and design, health disparities training and other skills for grant writing and submission.

“As a postdoctoral fellow, one priority I have for my fellowship includes robust training on how to meaningfully engage with under-resourced individuals living with chronic illness experiencing disparities in palliative care,” said Wells, whose program of research focuses on developing early palliative care intervention for those living with advanced heart failure. “The HDREP will allow me to not only learn more about how to engage and collaborate with groups who experience health-related disparities but also gain a more robust knowledge of the etiology of health disparities and methods to examine minority health and health disparities in hopes of developing interventions to address access to care and outcome differences.”

Wells earned her PhD from the UAB School of Nursing in 2019 and then moved to a postdoctoral fellow position as part of a research team centered on studying palliative care intervention and culturally responsive care. Under the mentorship of Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship Marie Bakitas, DNSc, CRNP, NP-C, AOCN, ACHPN, FAAN, FPCN, and Assistant Professor Nick Dionne-Odom, PhD, MSN, MA, RN, ACHPN, FPCN, Wells continues to make strides in palliative care interventions for patients, caregivers and lay navigators.

Through a five-year K99/R00 grant, Wells seeks to optimize an early palliative care intervention for persons with advanced heart failure. Knowledge gained from the HDREP, Wells said, will help her continue her focus on improving health disparities in under-resourced populations and build a stronger foundation with optimization design and intervention development.

Mentors throughout the University, including Bakitas, Dionne-Odom and UAB Division of Preventative Medicine Associate Professor Raegan Durant, MD, MPH, continue to support Wells’ pursuit of new opportunities and funding. Durant, a scientist in the MHRC, encouraged her application to the health disparities research program, Wells said.        

“Dr. Durant is very involved in the MHRC and the HDREP, so having a mentor that is as active as he is in preventative medicine and health disparities has helped me hone in on what my priorities should be as a postdoctoral fellow and researcher,” said Wells.

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