Friday, February 17, 2023
Season 2, Episode 3:
When Research Gets Real
In this episode, we are talking all about when research gets real, working with communities to make positive impacts. Special guest, Leonore Okwara, founder of the Association of Black Researchers, joins us to share her journey.
Season 2, Episode 3: When Research Gets Real
Welcome to the Public Health Joy podcast, the safe space for real and honest conversation about what building a public health research career is really like: the challenges, the triumphs, and all the lessons we learn along the way.
I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a Public health researcher, PhD survivor, and entrepreneur. In today’s episode, we are talking all about when research gets real as we work with communities to make positive impacts. Special guest, Leonore Okwara, founder of the Association of Black Researchers joins us to share her journey.
This is where research meets relationship and together, we will find our Public Health Joy!
Leonore Okwara, MPH is the Founder of the Association of Black Researchers (ABR), a 501c3 nonprofit organization that serves as a central resource to inform, support, and advance a multidisciplinary community of Black Researchers. For over 15 years, she has served in a research program management capacity and coordinated many single and multisite research projects. She has cultivated equitable partnerships between researchers and the community, and organized events that focused on addressing community mistrust in research. Because of this experience, Leonore understands the importance of bringing researchers together to share best practices, strategies, and lessons learned with future researchers.
To learn more about the Association of Black Researchers visit: https://www.blackresearchers.org
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and, leave a review! For more information on building a public health research career, visit https://joyeewashington.com/students/
3:00 Leonore’s background
6:18 Who is a public health researcher
11:18 Transparency in research
16:09 Community based research
23:19 Building community relationships
30:57 About the Association of Black Researchers
37:33 Get connected
39:20 Joy in the work
Joyee Washington 00:02
I guess I should have asked you if you were ready. Oh, well, I’m ready. All right. Well, we are going to get started. Welcome to another episode of the public health Joy podcast. And I know I always say that I’m excited about guests, right. But this one, I’m super excited because I got the homie. I got the sis. I got Leonore Okwara. With us today, founder of the Association of Black researchers. I’m repping the logo, right?
Leonore Okwara 00:31
Joyee Washington 00:32
Repping the t shirt. And I and this is what’s so crazy to me. I usually tell how I met the person. I don’t even remember how I met you.
Leonore Okwara 00:41
How did we meet?
Joyee Washington 00:41
Like, I feel like, I feel like you’ve been in my life my whole life.
Leonore Okwara 00:47
Yeah, that’s how I feel. I’m thinking that. I mean, Joyee I know you were on when I was doing podcasting. Nothing like you. So no one go look it up because it is totally like, ughhh…. [laugh] but you are on the podcast. And I’m like, how did we even connect.
Joyee Washington 01:05
We’ve only known each other two years.
Leonore Okwara 01:06
Joyee Washington 01:08
I don’t know how that happened. I don’t know how.
Leonore Okwara 01:12
Yeah. But you’re my best friend. Like my best friend I’ve never met. And I’ve never connected with anyone like this. So I’m just so happy to be on. Thank you so much.
Joyee Washington 01:24
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But we have done, you know, quite a few things in
Leonore Okwara 01:30
Yeah, we have…
Joyee Washington 01:31
Over the past two years that we’ve known each other. We’ve done research roundtables we’ve done, when clubhouse when when clubhouse was popping. I don’t know if it’s still popping because
Leonore Okwara 01:41
I don’t know, either.
Joyee Washington 01:43
But when when we were doing clubhouse together.
Leonore Okwara 01:46
Yeah. And you’re on the communities of color panel, the summit I hosted. Yes.
Joyee Washington 01:53
So we’ve done a lot of things together. And it’s just, it’s just crazy. But also one of the things that I love about being in this space. And being in public health, being an entrepreneur, being a consultant is being able to network and connect and build these relationships, like these professional relationships, because you never know. And I mean, like people get on social media. And they’re like, Oh, I’ll follow you. And you follow me back or connect with you. I’ll connect with you back. But what happens when we take these relationships offline, like this happen. Like this energy happens. This, this magic happens.
Leonore Okwara 02:30
Joyee Washington 02:31
And then it feels like and especially when you have such a good vibe and such good energy with somebody else, and you feel like oh, like you’re the missing piece of my puzzle.
Leonore Okwara 02:41
Joyee Washington 02:42
Like, that’s what it feels like.
Leonore Okwara 02:44
That’s what it feels like. I agree, I agree.
Joyee Washington 02:47
so So definitely, definitely so excited to have you on this episode. So I’ll let you go ahead. Because I don’t really have a story about how we met because I don’t remember, um, you can go ahead [laugh] and talk about yourself and tell us about who you are and what you do.
Leonore Okwara 03:03
How much time do I have? No, I’m playing [laugh]. So like Joyee said, my name is Leonore Okwara. I have been in public health research. Look for over 15 years now. And when I say public health researcher, I consider myself a researcher. Even though I’ve never been a PI [principal investigator], you know, I’ve never applied for a grant where I’m listed as the main researcher, but I have been research support staff this whole time. And we are important too. I started out as a research assistant knocking door to door Like, I literally was out there, yall is knocking on people’s doors, trying to recruit them for research studies. And they were looking at me like “little girl, why are you here, we’re not involving ourselves in this, you’re from which university, we don’t want to be bothered, because I don’t know, you know, you guys if you’re gonna use us as guinea pigs or not”. So that was very important for me, because I realized what the community’s perception of research was, and as a research assistant, that being my first job that was very impactful, and that changed the trajectory of my career. And then, you know, I became a research associate associate and a coordinator. So I had my own study that I was planning and responsible for, and I realized what all went into running a research study. The grant, getting the grant is very important. But what happens afterwards, like actually doing what you said was going to happen in the grant is a whole other beast So I really took my role seriously as a research support staff. Then I became a program manager. So now I’m managing research labs, managing students and interns and volunteers and multiple studies, managing you know, the building like oh, we need to put in work order. So it wasn’t just research study that was everything that kept a research program moving along. And so I’ve been doing that for, you know, as I said, over 15 years now, I’m currently a program manager at an academic institution that conducts clinical trials. So I’m involved in a lot of contracting, all of the regulatory responsibilities working with students, I’m speaking with industry. So that is what I’ve been doing. As far as my career is concerned, I got so many different opportunities, because my husband in the military, and Joyee, you know, this, like, as a military spouse, like, we just go where the military tells us to go, we do we have to deal with what the military tells us to do. And so I had to decide like, what role would be good for that? What role is flexible? What field is flexible in public health, is it, you know, there’s so many things to do in the public health field. And so research just naturally fell into place. So as we move multiple times, every two to four years, I was able to find something. And that also contributed to my perception, my experience, my journey, in public health research and networking and building communities.
Joyee Washington 06:18
Yeah, absolutely. And, and you said, a whole bunch of stuff that I’m sitting, I’m sitting here trying to take notes. So I don’t forget, like, which points I want to make. But number one, like you said, you you consider yourself a public health researcher, even though you’ve never been a PI. And I think that’s, sometimes that can be a misconception, like, Oh, I gotta have a PhD. To do research, Oh, I gotta have this particular credential to do research. Anybody can be a public health researcher, it just means that you ask the questions. Yes. Do the research. Our community members are researchers, if they get engaged in the research process, then they are researchers. So you know, it really comes with that mindset shift, you know, for people who are like, oh, I want to be a researcher. Baby, you already are. Exactly. You’ve been asking questions, if you if you’ve been exploring the data, regardless of what that looks like, it might not be formal research in the sense that you might not have a grant or you may not be working on a specific research project. But just the process of asking the questions and trying attempting to find the answers makes you a researcher.
Leonore Okwara 07:25
Joyee Washington 07:27
And we don’t we don’t talk about it. In that sense.
Leonore Okwara 07:30
We don’t we don’t. We don’t Yeah, it’s really an umbrella term. It’s not just reserved for faculty at all.
Joyee Washington 07:42
Yeah. So just just being aware of that mindset shift. And then the second thing that I want to mention is that you had said about, you know, when you get a grant, or when you’re doing research, it looks a lot different. When you’re actually doing it. I remember, I remember when I was on your podcast, or a guest on your podcast, and one of the stories I told was when I became a community based participatory research coordinator, and one of my job position or job responsibilities that I was not prepared for was I was making sandwiches. I was like, we had these community meetings, like we got to feed these people. We didn’t have the budget, and the money to have stuff catered. So what was I doing going to the grocery store, buying meat, buying bread, you know, making up the sandwiches buying chips. I was like, this was not this was not in the job description.
Leonore Okwara 08:41
No, it was not in the grant.
Joyee Washington 08:43
it was not in the grant, public health researchers, sometimes you got to make sandwiches, like
Leonore Okwara 08:48
Joyee Washington 08:49
You got to make sandwiches, you got to go to the kids basketball games, you got to go to church, with with your community members, you got to go to the cookout, you got to do all the things that’s gonna help build those relationships with that with those community members. And those are things that are not written about in the textbooks.
Leonore Okwara 09:07
They aren’t and that was the thing I think I wasn’t prepared for because here I was, I think I was 20. And, you know, I started my, my role. I’m reading the protocol, you know, making sure okay, I have my checklist. And all of that is important, you know, for you to really understand the protocol when you’re going out into the community because you can’t go in there questioning things because they really won’t trust you. And so I didn’t realize that building the connection that relationships was important, because that wasn’t a part of the grant. Now, mind you, I had no idea about a research protocol until that position. So I’m reading it like this is what I’m supposed to do, you know, like reading it as literal. And what I realized was, wow, you know, the person they partnered me with, she was a member of that community. She lived In the public, the affordable housing communities, and she showed me the importance of having conversations, attending those events, like you were saying Joyee, they have so many back to school events in the neighborhood. And it was so much fun. And it got to the point where they were giving me a side eye at the beginning. And then as I started showing up outside of the research study, they call me the ‘asthma lady’, because it was an asthma study. So you know, Joyee, once you get a name, you’re in there, once you get it, and you are there.
Joyee Washington 10:38
That’s the seal of approval. Good. And
Leonore Okwara 10:42
Look, that was yes, that was so impactful for me. So I’m grateful. I had that experience at the beginning, because it changed the way it changed my outlook on the position. And showed me just gave me a comprehensive view of what research is in the community. And a lot of people don’t get that experience. So I share it anytime I can. But I also think it’s important for people who are PIs and faculty level, they need to know that as well. That it’s important for them to build those relationships. And I know you talk about that a lot in what you do.
Joyee Washington 11:18
Yeah, for sure. And definitely being being the PI and being you know, some of those upper level more administrative, a lot of times the PI never really sees anything, you know, beyond the paperwork, or beyond meeting with their staff. Right. And, and that can be harmful when it comes to research and working with communities. Because then it’s kind of like, Oh, who’s who’s the person behind the veil, right? Who’s the person behind the curtain, organizing all these all these little things. And it’s like, if we’re not transparent, if we’re not honest about what’s going on, and who was involved anything. I’m gonna tell y’all now, if y’all got a PI, and when we say PI, that stands for principal investigator, for those who may not know, if you have a PI, who does not want to get involved, does not want to get engaged with the community, that’s a red flag.
Leonore Okwara 12:15
It’s a red red flag. It is a red flag. And it’s disappointing, honestly. Because it doesn’t matter which community you’re working in. If this is your research, you need to show up, they need to see you. We’re done having secrets. You know, we’re all about transparency in this season when it comes to research. And, you know, there have been several times I’ve worked for PIs, you know, over my many jobs in my many places that wanted to take that back seat. And it it’s such a huge disservice to the community. It’s not a sustainable practice at all. And it just, it makes it seem like we’re keeping secrets. And that, you know, is not the perception that we want the community to have. So yeah, huge red flag is putting it out there.
Joyee Washington 13:13
Yeah, yeah. And we might have to do a whole episode on research red flags.
Leonore Okwara 13:17
Joyee Washington 13:18
Because, because there are so many of them. But that is a major one. And especially when you have researchers, specifically those who are PIs, or even those who may be coordinating or managing, you know, different research projects, and they want to keep the data to themselves, right? Because Because Because communities already know y’all come in here. Y’all take take what y’all need, and y’all leave. That is the perception that because that’s what has happened. That’s what they’ve experienced. And so we need to be actively working to break those barriers. And not only just just break them, but also acknowledge Yes, this has happened. And I think sometimes people get lost and they don’t even acknowledge this has happened. They’re just like, “Oh, we’re not like that. We’re completely different”. But But how are you? How are you completely different? Make it clear.
Leonore Okwara 14:11
Exactly. And then show it in your actions. When you mentioned, you know, community say you come in, take everything and leave like I’ve actually had a community say that like, “Okay, you guys are from this institution. But when this other institution came, they were very condescending to our patients, you know, they were very disorganized. So we’re going to give you a chance, but if y’all mess it up, you can count us out of research period, like we are not participating in anything. Don’t call us, none of that”. And so I was afraid like, oh my gosh, like there’s so much riding on this and it ended up working out really well. Oh, that site actually became one of our top sites in the program in terms of like sharing the study recruiting patients, and we acknowledge them for that. So, you know, it’s a real thing, communities will close the door and not open it again. And you have to be very careful with that. And you think about what would you want, like if this was you, in that position, you don’t want someone just coming in trying to get your information and leaving. So that’s not something you should practice. And that’s something you should be vocal about to with your if you are research support staff, that’s something you can and should bring up in, in your meetings with your PI?
Joyee Washington 15:44
Yeah, yeah, for sure. And it tells you kind of the transformation that can happen, like what can happen when we actually become transparent about what we’re doing in research about our goals. And also, for us to take a step back, take a step back, and make sure that we’re positioning the community in a place where they’re in the driver’s seat.
Leonore Okwara 16:09
And that’s why, yeah, CBPR community based participatory research is so important, because I’ve seen the results of that, where the community is now the leader, and the effort. And a lot of recently, some of the research studies I’ve been working on the community members are now writing their own grants. They’re a published authors, now, they go around speaking at national conferences. It’s just been amazing to see the transformation, when it’s a true partnership. And not you know, I’m the researcher, we talk about this all the time, where you come in with a the hero complex, like you’re saving them from something. But having that true partnership and learning from each other, has been so incredible. And it takes time. And it’s hard. And a lot of people don’t want to deal with that. But for the long term, it’s the best approach.
Joyee Washington 17:15
And the thing about it is, it’s worth it.
Leonore Okwara 17:17
Joyee Washington 17:17
Like it’s absolutely worth it. To go through the time to take on the challenges, to break the barriers. Because what do we want to see? What do we want that vision to be? What do we want the goal to be, and if we are, in fact, working together, in order to build healthier communities, to create these sustainable solutions, then we have to do things differently. And we are so trapped, I feel like we’re so trapped in the the mindset of academic research, like it has to look this specific way, it has to be done in this particular way. So that we can get into the journal, so that we can get into the publications. And to be honest, for me, I’m like, if I can work with a community, and they can get what they need, and get the research done that they need to get done. And they have the solution. There is a place for publications and journals and all that type of stuff. But if it doesn’t make it there, but the impact is still made in the community. That’s what’s important. You know what I mean? Like, it’s important that journals and all that type of stuff is important for sharing the information right, so that other communities can can do the thing and replicate. But at the end of the day, if we make it into the journal, but nothing is done in the community. What’s the point?
Leonore Okwara 18:41
I agree, you made a couple of points that I want to talk about. The first is, you know, academic research is definitely different from anything community based. The community doesn’t care about your format, about how your references, which you know, what you use, and all of that. They don’t care about that. And that’s one of the challenges I see with working with students is that you know, they have a project, it has to meet certain criteria in order for them to graduate or to, you know, be successful, get a passing score. But when you have the community, it’s kind of a hard fit, and saying what the IRB, IRB has, you know, certain requirements, the community doesn’t really care about those requirements. Sometimes they don’t fit. And so in some of those situations, you just have to have conversations to see what works for that particular scenario. But yeah, it’s hard, because they don’t often mesh together or fit perfectly like a puzzle. And that’s just what it is, you know, you just go into it knowing you’re going to have to come up and address some of these issues. And you take it from there. Every community is different. So What you prepare for with one research study may not happen in the next one, you may have something completely different. That happens that you have to address. The other thing was, you know, with publishing, a lot of faculty are evaluated based on number of grants, number of publications you have. And so that is never going away. The problem I have is when people do public health research, or any research that involves the community, or the community needs to make decisions based on you know, those findings, I have a problem when researchers don’t communicate the findings to the community. So it’s like you’re communicating it to the field. But the people who actually need to make decisions with that information, like you said, it impacts them. They what are they supposed to do, they don’t have anything. So I encourage everyone, if you are developing a presentation for, you know, a national conference, develop a presentation to give to the community to present to them, if you are developing an a report with findings for your study for the scientific audience, develop it for the community. So that should be default, you should be developing ways to disseminate the information to both groups of people, because they need to know if not that they’re the main group who really need to know what happens with that study.
Joyee Washington 21:29
Right? And a lot of what I hear, you know, a lot of times talking about power, power dynamics, right.
Leonore Okwara 21:36
Joyee Washington 21:36
Between research and academia and the community. And really, what it boils down to is who has control.
Leonore Okwara 21:43
That’s the goal. Absoloutely.
Joyee Washington 21:43
And the years throughout history, academia and universities have had the control when it comes to research. And I was thinking earlier, I had given the kind of analogy of being in the driver’s seat, right. And so a lot of times for it has been if we’re thinking about a car, academia, and universities have been in the driver’s seat of the car, and the community has been on completely on the outside, completely on the outside of the car, no control over the car whatsoever. But when we talk about community based participatory research, and it can look different ways, sometimes people do that, that type of research and the university and in academia, they’re still in the driver’s seat. But the community is in the passenger, right or in the backseat, kind of given input. But when we start to look at what it truly means, to have community engaged, community led, community driven, you know, research, that means the community’s in the driver’s seat, you know what I mean, the community has the control. And we as the, as academia, or universities or whatever, the researchers, weire either in the in the passenger seat on the backseat, hopefully, we get to the point where we on the outside of the car. Because, you know, we don’t, we don’t want this same history to continue to repeat itself for years to come, where the community members are not in the driver’s seat. We don’t want that.
Leonore Okwara 23:19
Exactly, exactly. And I just praise institutions that recognize that and are making a conscious effort to truly partner with the community. And ultimately, sustainability lies in the community being able to take that and implement. Like, that’s what we want. And what I found, which was fascinating to see. There were some researchers we were working with who were working on this new study, and looking at supplements, and they were in in the part of the process where they were getting ready to write the grant. And so our team said, How about we bring in some of these patients that will benefit from this study, and you present to them, you let them know what you’re going to do? You ask them questions, and let them give your feed, them give you feedback. So they said okay, a lot of times, researchers or faculty don’t want to hear from the community. First of all, it takes a lot of effort. Second of all, what do I say I’m speaking this scientific speak. And now you know, we may have, you know, my mom is 78. We may have this 78 year old black lady from a small town in Louisiana, coming to hear me speak about some beta something or other, you know, there’s such a huge disconnect. So a lot of them can’t even fathom taking on that type of challenge because it’s a lot, but because we already have connections to the community. They trusted what we did, we let them know, this is what we’re putting together. So I would get phone calls. As I was inviting people to join this conversation, they would say, “I don’t know about anything like, I don’t have anything to contribute”. And I said, this is what we want, like you represent the community. And so it’s up to the researchers to be able to explain it to you and present this information to you where you understand it, and can make an informed decision about participating in the study. A lot of times, you may have a research study that can cure brain cancer, but the community doesn’t understand the title of the study. So they’re not going to participate. Like it’s crazy to me. So anyways, we hosted this community forum, let me tell you, the community got a lot out of it. But the researchers hearing from the community or the community, even the basic word that the researchers thought everybody knows the communities that what is that? Like? I don’t understand that. And so the researchers have to go back to the drawing board and figure out is this protocol going to be effective, because it’s not going to reach or target the community that we’re trying to prioritize? So it was like a phenomenal, like, Aha lightbulb moment for the researchers. And so then they wanted to schedule another meeting. And of course, we paid the community, like, they were there for an hour, we gave them a gift card each time they came, because we don’t want to overburden them as well, like they’re giving their expertise and their time. But if the resources are in place, it is such a phenomenal approach. Like the community, they won’t be shy, this this affects them. And it’s like, you know, so I applaud institutions who are willing to put in that effort, because it should happen regardless actually be default.
Joyee Washington 26:57
Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve done, I’ve done research probably the same amount of time as you like, over the past over 15 years. And I came from the hard sciences. And there’s nothing as humbling as being able to do research with communities with and for communities like it is, it’s hard to explain, like, unless you’ve done it, and unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t understand the power that it holds, to be able to work to work with and for communities, to hear their voices, to understand where they’re coming from, because there are so many researchers who come into the space or into a community. And they say, Okay, this is the problem that we see. But then when you start hearing community voices, they’re like, oh, I don’t, I don’t agree. I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I don’t, that’s not the problem. I see. That’s not the problem I face. This is the situation that’s going on, you don’t know what you’re talking about, like they will get you correct.
Leonore Okwara 27:58
They will. And as a researcher, you can’t say, Oh, well, the NIH R01, RFP says we can only do that. Okay, so why are you doing it, then if the community is telling you, we don’t care about that, but you’re thinking about all you can think about is the funding, and the notoriety that it’ll bring to you, something is wrong, like we need to do some self reflection, and understand our intentions, because these are people, like real people. This isn’t just something you’re going to write up, you know, this isn’t just a data point in your data set. So we need to do some self reflection, because I see that far too often. I came across this researcher who their CV was, like 50 pages, I don’t know, 50-60 pages. But they were coming to us to ask for recommendations for community advisory board members. And I feel like you’ve been in this field for like, decades, how do you not know anyone in the community? And that was eye opening to me as well. It’s like, what are you in this for? So that’s a huge pet peeve of mine. You can call yourself a community researcher or researcher working with the community and however, you know, at whatever aspect you work with the community and not know the community. If so, I just can’t even imagine doing work and not knowing the community that I’m working with. I don’t know.
Joyee Washington 29:41
Yeah, it just tells you about their motive, another red flag, another red flag,
Leonore Okwara 29:45
another red flag,
Joyee Washington 29:46
another red flag. So you have to be in a position where you are willing to break that ego.
Leonore Okwara 29:56
Joyee Washington 29:56
Put that, put that pride to the side because at the end of the day it don’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It’s not… your pride and your ego as a researcher is not going to help the community at the end of the day, so you really have to be in a space. And I know in my work, I talk a lot about being a servant leader, a lot of us in public health, we’re not just leaders, we’re servant leaders. So we’re coming from leadership from an aspect of empathy and compassion, and care. And ego and pride don’t don’t, that’s oil and water. It does not mix, you know. So, just just keeping that in mind. So let’s shift a little bit, you have founded the Association of Black researchers. So tell us a little bit about kind of the journey to the Association of Black researchers [ABR] and kind of what that looks like and what you all do to support research.
Leonore Okwara 30:57
I’m so excited about this, I’ve always had a dream to start a nonprofit. And I just didn’t know how it would look. And so ABR is a 501 C3, nonprofit. Our mission is really to equip a multidisciplinary group of black researchers with resources that will help them be successful throughout their journey. And multidisciplinary is important, because public health isn’t the only you know, aspect, research discipline there is. There’s so many we have education, we have stem researchers, there’s economics, there’s all kinds, there’s Tech, I mean, there’s so many disciplines of research. And being black in the field, it doesn’t matter if you’re in public health, if you’re in accounting, being black in the field, we’ve gone through the same things. And so I just feel like having and learning and networking with a community of black researchers, no matter the discipline is so important because you guys can relate about your journey. But then also we know research is a collaborative field. You write grants, you need Co-I’s [co-investigators], you need consultants, you need community experts, you need collaboration. And so this is just another way to open up the opportunity to meet people. Because over the years, as I’ve moved, that’s been one of the biggest issues that people have had and have talked to me about is I don’t know anyone who do I partner with, I don’t know anyone in the community. I don’t know a researcher who has expertise in engineering. And I just felt like this would be this organization would be a central place to meet people like that. The other thing that I’ve heard over the years is that it is about resources. Some people come to me and they say, you know, I just happen to show up at this meeting early, and talk to a person who told me about a program that offered free tuition for my program. And I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t show up early, or I happened to talk to someone else. And they told me about this resource, where I was able to get, you know, a stipend for my dissertation to pay my people. Um, and to me, it was just like, wow, there are so many opportunities, so many trainings, so many resources. So, so much financial help out there, that we aren’t coming across that at all. It’s just by coincidence, we happen to come across it. And so I wanted, and I want ABR, to serve as that central place to network build community, but to also learn about resources that will help you along your journey. It’s always about what has been created what is already out there. Who can you learn from to help make your research journey easier? Every time I moved Joyee, I started from zero, like I didn’t know what I was doing. And there was no one around who would say, Leonore, you talk to this, you know, person in finance for the grant and your budget. Here’s their name. This is what you do. This is the process. No, I had to recreate it. I had to reinvent the wheel. And you can imagine moving every two to four years, it was so exhausting. And that was just the day to day responsibilities that wasn’t like the community and learning them and all of that and so people get tired. And when I worked for the VA, a colleague of mine, we established the project managers resource group, and it was just for research assistants, research coordinators and program managers in our department to meet once a month and share these lessons learned advice templates, checklists. It was such a great bonding experience, we didn’t feel alone. We didn’t have to start reinvent the wheel, we had a foundation. And that is what I want ABR to create for people, is a foundation, where you’re learning from other people who are black in the field, who may be senior research investigators, and wish they would have done something differently when they were in undergrad or they were just starting their master’s program. It’s a way for all of us to connect virtually and learn from each other. So I’m excited. We are a year old. Now. And so far we’ve had monthly professional development sessions. We’ve had people come to talk about data storytelling, talk about their life as a doctoral student in real time, what they’re going through regulatory guidance, recruiting, barriers to recruitment, we have NIH, come talk about their student loan payment program, that CISCRP come talk about health literacy. So we choose topics that can be applied across disciplines. And I’m really excited about that. We’ve also hosted a couple of networking events. We’ve hosted National Black researchers week, which happened in June. And this was a way for researchers to come in different disciplines share their experiences of being black in research. And we also have a membership directory and a community organization directory where members can connect with each other. And members can also reach out to community organizations who are interested in research as well. So I’m very excited. I’m also excited about what’s to come. But I’ve said a lot. And I can go on for another hour or so I’m just a cool back.
Joyee Washington 36:57
Well, I hope our listeners when they’re listening to this podcast episode, hear all the wonderful things that ABR offers, like the resources are here, like we are, in this space, creating these resources, creating these opportunities, creating these spaces, because these spaces have not traditionally been here for us. Right. So this is the opportunity. So if someone was interested in joining the Association of Black researchers, also known as ABR, where do they go to get more information? How did it how do they join? What are kind of the options?
Leonore Okwara 37:33
Yeah so our website is blackresearchers.org. We are a membership base. And I did that for a reason. As a researcher, I’m always thinking about sustainability. And so it is membership base, there is a fee for students, there’s a fee for professional researchers. But that helps keep our organization afloat without having to rely on grant funding and other funding because I don’t want this to shut down. So we have our consistent income with through the memberships. But we also apply for grants, we have donors, we have, you know sponsors and things of that nature, but you can join by becoming a member. But if you aren’t ready, we also have our email list. So if you go to our homepage, scroll down, put in your email, you’ll be added to our listserv. We send out opportunities all the time, that way, we also invite you to our professional development sessions, so you can get the knowledge too, we’re not here to hold resources back from anyone. As I said, it’s all about transparency. So even if you aren’t a member, you can still benefit from being on the listserv. We have organizations, companies reach out to us and say, Hey, we have this opportunity, send it out to your members. So I would just encourage you to get on the listserv, so you can just stay in the know with what’s happening.
Joyee Washington 38:59
Awesome, awesome. So definitely, if you are listening, make sure you check out blackresearchers.org and get more information about Association of Black researchers. So we’re gonna get ready to wrap up this conversation. But I gotta ask you one final question. And that question is what brings you joy in your work?
Leonore Okwara 39:20
Oh, my gosh, I think the thing that brings me joy is when I’ve worked with communities or people and then they come back and they say, oh, Leonore, I’m doing this event will you join or, Leonore when we talked, you gave me this resource and it just made things so easy for me or you share this job opportunity and I got the job. That makes me so happy because it shows the power of transparency and sharing things and building communities. And it showed me the relationship I built with people because they choose to come back and like invite me places or they tell me how much things have helped like it. It makes me so excited. So that’s what brings me joy is hearing back from people and just staying connected with the communities that I’ve built.
Joyee Washington 40:00
Those connections are priceless. They are absolutely priceless. Well I have enjoyed as always because we always talking and texting so I have enjoyed this. Thank you so much for sharing that information and sharing your story and sharing your journey. This is going to conclude our episode of the public health Joy podcast and make sure you tune in for the next one.
Outro: I’m so grateful for this time we got to spend together. If you enjoyed this episode, I need you to subscribe, rate and, leave a review. For more information on building a public health research career, visit www.joyeewashington.com! This is where research meets relationship and I’ll see you next time on the public health joy podcast.
Rate & Leave a Review!
Like the podcast? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to rate and leave a review! We would love your feedback and thanks for listening to the Public Health Joy podcast!