Tarley’s Research Leads her to Hopkins for MPH

Tarley points to research poster
Tarley researched whether distress after childbirth is affected by race, and healthcare outcomes related to bias.

Honors alum Dorbor Tarley ’22, Human Development and Family Science graduate, utilized her thesis opportunity to explore inequity in maternal health care, with the intention that her findings would help improve care for Black women.

Dorbor’s researched focused on the positive impact of community-oriented health centers. With the support of Honors, Tarley was able to dive deeply into her original research. Social determinants of health, like socioeconomic class and environment, have been well studied, Tarley says, but—recalling her own family’s experiences with different practitioners—she wondered how implicit bias and racism factored into Black women’s maternal and postnatal health as well. With associate professor of human development Matthew Mulvaney as her Honors thesis advisor, Tarley developed a research project to compare the level of concern generated within a cross section of the general public by women exhibiting the same medical symptoms, with race as the only variable in their story. “The purpose of my research was to discover whether perceptions of women’s distress following childbirth are affected by race and to understand what interpersonal factors might contribute to variations in concern,” she says.

Funding from the SOURCE made it possible for Tarley to gather perspectives from 164 representatives of the general population. The results of her research showed survey takers registered more concern for and would more readily recommend medical intervention for white women than Black women showing the same symptoms. This reveals, Tarley explains, how cultural perceptions of Black women are expressed in ways people may not even be aware of but which, with underlying health care practitioners’ decisions, can have very real consequences. “Implicit biases can lead to Black women not being believed or respected. And in health care settings, this manifests in delays in treatment, refusal of services and an overall lack of consideration for Black women’s bodily autonomy,” she says. Tarley presented her results at multiple conferences and conventions, including representing the University at the ACC Meeting of the Minds Conference in 2021.

Dorbor will continue her education this fall in a public health Master’s program at Johns Hopkins University. In her career path, she intends to address inequity in health care at both the systemic and individual scale.

Excerpt from the Syracuse news story, “Positioned to Advance Equity in Public Health.” Read full feature here.

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