Filling gaps in mental health research

Photo of Frank Puga

By Erica Techo

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Assistant Professor Frank Puga, PhD, was awarded a $25,000 grant from the UAB Heersink School of Medicine Center for Palliative and Supportive Care.

This funding will support a pilot study titled, “The Mental Health Experiences of Sexual and Gender Minorities Living with Cancer and their Intimate Partners.” Data from the pilot study will be used to support future National Institutes of Health grant submissions.

“We know that there is a relationship between living with chronic diseases, such as dementia and cancer, and adverse mental health outcomes,” Puga said. “However, it is unclear which factors put individuals at most risk for depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation and which factors may mitigate this risk. This is especially true among diverse patient populations, such as Hispanics and sexual gender minorities, who are disproportionately impacted by stress and aging-related diseases.”

The study will examine relationships between depression symptom experience, resilience, frailty and quality of life among older sexual gender minority cancer survivors and their intimate partners in order to identify factors that will inform the development of culturally appropriate interventions. Puga will use preliminary data to see which factors increase or decrease the risk of depression, working toward a dynamic mental health framework in cancer that improves the quality of palliative and end-of-life care for this underserved population.

“Sexual gender minorities are underserved in palliative and end-of-life care despite a disproportionate cancer burden. Sexual gender minority cancer survivors may also experience discrimination and unequal treatment in health care settings, resulting in ineffective care and poor health outcomes,” Puga said. “There is a need for culturally appropriate palliative care interventions that focus on the unique experiences of these cancer survivors and their intimate partners to support their mental health and well-being.”

Puga received the funding through the CPSC’s Palliative Research Enhancement Project Awards. PREP aims to fund the UAB community in innovative research that contributes to the evidence base of palliative and supportive care.

Last modified on March 21, 2022

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