Professors Alcantara and West Receive Provost's Diversity Grants

Communications Office
June 11, 2021

Funding will support research on stress, sleep, and health behaviors for Latinx adults, and on stigma toward drug-involved pregnant women.

The Office of the Provost at Columbia University has recognized two faculty members at the Columbia School of Social Work, Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Doctoral Education Carmela Alcántara and Assistant Professor Brooke West, with awards for exciting new research projects that contribute to the diversity goals of the University.

A licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in public health and behavioral medicine, Alcántara has received a Mid-Career Faculty Award Grant to support her proposal “Stress and Waking Health Behaviors in Daily Life: Is Sleep a Stress-Buffer or Stress-Exacerbator?” Alcántara, who directs Columbia University’s Sleep Mind Health Research Program, performs multidisciplinary research that integrates psychology, public health, social work, and medicine to understand how structural and social factors affect sleep, mental health, and cardiovascular health, particularly in marginalized communities.

With support from the Provost’s office, Alcántara plans to delve into the latest research indicating that longer sleep duration and higher sleep quality the night before may help racial/ethnic minorities cope with sociocultural stressors such as discrimination. As she wrote in her grant application: “I would like to examine the bi-directional and temporal associations between stress and various waking health behaviors, namely physical activity and substance use, and the extent to which sleep regularity may buffer against or exacerbate the within-person associations between stress and cardiovascular health risk behaviors in Latinx adults.”

A medical sociologist, West has received a Junior Faculty Award Grant for her proposal “Mitigating Inequities in Drug-related Morbidity and Mortality During Pregnancy and Postpartum: What Role Do Childbirth Health Service Providers Play In (Re)Producing Harms?” Based at the School’s Social Intervention Group, West has performed over a decade of work examining the social, economic, physical, and policy factors underlying inequities in health among marginalized and criminalized populations, both globally and domestically. She also works on projects related to overdose among women and the health of women more broadly.

On the assumption that “provider stigma and unjust health systems converge to create harms for pregnant and postpartum people who use drugs,” West proposes to use her Provost’s award to conduct a national cross-sectional survey of US-based childbirth health service providers about their knowledge, beliefs, stigma, clinical practices, and training as it relates to substance use during pregnancy and postpartum. She intends for her findings to inform the design of interventions that can counter the harms this convergence causes for pregnant and postpartum people who use drugs.

“I’m so proud of the outstanding work being done by Professors Alcántara and West, and delighted by the Provost’s Office recognition of its excellence,” said Dean Melissa Begg. “It’s further proof of the relevance, timeliness, and impact of social work research on well-being, especially in marginalized communities. The findings of our colleagues will contribute to improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable among us.”

The Provost’s Grants Program was initiated 16 years ago in support of the University’s core values of inclusion and excellence. This small-grants program is designed to support the Schools’ diversity plans by advancing the career success of outstanding faculty who contribute to the diversity goals of the University through research, teaching, and mentoring activities. Grantees for Junior and Mid-Career Awards are selected via a competitive process twice a year, with all applications reviewed by a committee of faculty from both the Morningside and Medical Center campuses.