Meet Erin Banks
Sweeping first place in the category of Social Sciences and Management at the spring 2009 Graduate Student Research Symposium, Dr. Erin Banks presented her research, “Being Healthy Counts to H.I.M.: An examination of health behavior among participants in a diabetes prevention and health promotion program.”
Banks’ academic ventures began a few states south of North Carolina at Florida A&M University, where she completed a B.S. in journalism with a psychology minor and a Master’s of Science in Community Psychology. In 2003, she left the sunny state of Florida to pursue her Ph.D. in Psychology of Public Interest at North Carolina State University (NCSU).
According to Banks, the supportive faculty and staff attracted her to NCSU.
“Through [the NC State Visitation Day], I was able to meet the faculty and students and see the campus,” she said. “I identified a faculty mentor immediately. I was also fortunate to have the support from the faculty, staff and administrators on campus.”
With support garnered, Banks was able to delve fully into her interdisciplinary research that “combines theories from both psychology and public health.” Banks’ overall aim was to identify factors that predispose older African-American adults to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, her unique research went a step further to provide an intervention that would be beneficial to this group.
“I’ve been told that many doctoral students do not engage in intervention work because of the time commitment and work that it entails,” she said. “However, for my dissertation, I wanted to do something that made a difference and had real-life applications and implications.”
After an eight-week intervention program, Banks discovered that “fasting blood sugar decreased amongst [her] participants” – a significant finding because of the strong correlation between elevated fasting blood sugar and type-2 diabetes. If we can identify ways to reduce fasting blood sugar levels and keep them at a “normal” level, this would help to reduce the onset of type-2 diabetes.
Findings from this quasi-experimental study of older African-American adults will contribute further to the health-related research and intervention literature for African Americans as well as research addressing the role of churches in conveying health information and behavioral change.
In February, Banks completed the final steps of her journey to a doctoral degree in Psychology in the Public Interest. From her experiences, she has identified strategies that can help make the dissertation process “less stressful and much more enjoyable.”
“Start your research early,” she said. “Conduct research that you are interested in and that you are passionate about. … Also, identify a mentor who believes in you!”
Now that Banks has successfully defended her dissertation, she said she has more time to enjoy the hobbies she loves, such as dance -- ballet, modern and jazz -- and reading. She also values spending time with her family and friends.
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