2021 MSW Student Co-Authors and Presents Latinx Health Disparity Research at Conference - University of Houston
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MSW Student Co-Authors and Presents Latinx Health Disparity Research

June 28, 2021

(HOUSTON, TX) - MSW Student Rodolfo Salinas, Jr. recently presented research at the 29th Annual Meeting of the Society for Prevention Research - SPR.

"Adolescent Health Equity Promotion through Positive Childhood Experiences in the Context of Childhood Adversity" was co-authored by GCSW PhD Candidate Natalia Giraldo Santiago and Assistant Professor Sharon Borja. The research was awarded Abstract of Distinction for its submission.

We asked Rodolfo to give us insight into how his research interests came about, the process of collaborating with faculty, and what his goals are for the future.


Name: Rodolfo Salinas, Jr.

Your research was co-authored by GCSW Assistant Professor Sharon Borja and PhD Candidate Natalia Giraldo-Santiago. How did this collaboration come about?

During my first semester of the MSW, I enrolled in Dr. Borja’s Social Policy Analysis class, where we discussed the importance of advocating for policy solutions to community problems. In this class, I became aware that research and policy analyses were one way to address systemic issues and the many health disparities my community faces. Dr. Borja was very welcoming to meet with me to discuss my passion for this subject and desire to go beyond the traditional classroom framework. Dr. Borja brought about the possibility of mentoring me throughout the academic year, with a particular focus on research. As a 2nd generation child of Mexican immigrants and raised in 2nd Ward/Segundo Barrio here in Houston, I brought firsthand experience to the research team. I also helped to incorporate social and contextual factors that significantly impact the well-being of Latinx youth.

Why is it vital that we better understand positive and adverse childhood experiences and how they relate to the unique experiences adolescence of color face?

While adverse childhood experiences have negative long-term health and mental health outcomes, positive childhood experiences can counteract those adverse effects. Our research seeks to raise attention to the fact that adverse and positive experiences tend to co-occur; however, children and adolescents of color tend to have more negative experiences than positive, disproportionately. As a society, we must promote positive experiences, nurturing environments, and supportive programs, targeting youth of color and their unique needs.

How did the GCSW prepare you for your research and presentation?

The GCSW offered me many opportunities to learn and grow, especially conducting research and understanding the policy implications of my work. The GCSW’s rigorous research and policy coursework and diverse student body have enhanced my presentation skills and graduate competencies. Since my passion is health and health equity among disproportionately impacted populations, the GCSW has faculty and doctoral students available to provide mentorship and guidance to pursue a graduate degree. I am very grateful to the program, Dr. Sharon Borja, and her doctoral research assistants, Natalia and Gaby. They have shared their vast knowledge and offered their unwavering support for me, my goals, and my research. 

What are some goals you hope to achieve at the GCSW and beyond? 

My most immediate plans are to graduate from the GCSW and get licensed to practice social work. I currently hold an LCDC-I (Licenced Chemical Dependency Counselor), so I hope to become a fully licensed LCDC sometime in the future. But my biggest aspiration, however, is to pursue a PhD in social work in a program that will support my research interests around adverse experiences and positive Latinx youth functioning.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I encourage all GCSW students to reach out to professors that are researching their area of interest. For me, research is a transformative experience and a massive contribution to the social work field. Whether it is direct clinical services, policy work, or research, dedicate time and effort to such a field, and make sure you identify mentors who genuinely care for you. Conducting effective and accurate research is our ethical responsibility and the first step towards achieving social justice and equity.