Program of Research

Mental health challenges disproportionately impact racial/ethnic minorities and immigrant communities due to a complex interplay of social determinants operating at multiple levels—from individual experiences of discrimination to community-level stressors and structural barriers to care. Despite the fact that this has been a long-standing question in social work and behavioral health research, mental health services often fail to reach or effectively serve minority and immigrant populations.

To tackle these entrenched disparities, my work centers on the following perspectives:

  • A systems lens to interrogate how social policies and care delivery models can perpetuate or ameliorate inequities
  • A community lens to map local risk and protective factors shaping mental health
  • A technology lens to investigate the equity impacts of telehealth, mobile apps, social media, and other digital innovations
  • An intersectionality lens to investigate how various social identities intersect and create unique experiences of oppression that impact mental health

Across projects, I harness quantitative, geospatial, and computational social science methods—especially natural language processing—to capture these multi-level determinants of minority mental health and wellbeing. The ultimate goal is to inform the development and implementation of more targeted, responsive, and scalable interventions to eliminate disparities and ensure all individuals and communities can thrive.

Furthermore, I am interested in how data science / computational methods can improve social work research without causing harm. This includes exploring the application and implications of data science in the field and education. How can large volumes of text data, such as clinical or case notes, social media, or administrative data, along with large language models, be applied to enhance social work research and practice? This line of inquiry emphasizes the potential for technology to contribute to, rather than detract from, the ethical advancement of social work.

Dissertation Project

My dissertation project, Unraveling Ethnic Disparities: Spatial and Virtual Access to Mental Health Services among Immigrants with Language Barriers, focuses on the linguistic and cultural barriers immigrants with LEP face in accessing mental health services and the role of technology in overcoming them. By identifying service gaps arising from structural racism, this study aims to drive structural reforms in the educational and training systems for multilingual and multicultural social workers to close the health gaps across ethnic minorities. The anticipated findings could pave the way for tailored mental health services for Hispanic and Asian immigrants with language barriers, striving towards a more inclusively equipped workforce.

There are three parts of my dissertation using the multi-method approach to assess linguistic accessibility in the real world at the 1) system, 2) provider, and 3) client level.

  1. The first study will use computational science to determine the availability of mental health treatment in Spanish and Asian languages and examine the influence of structural xenophobia on mental health care accessibility.
  2. The second study will test emails sent to a large sample of multilingual mental health providers across the U.S. from mock clients with a) foreign- or American-sounding names and b) in English or other languages to determine if linguistic barriers and provider bias impact a client’s access to mental health services.
  3. The final study will involve qualitative interviews with Asian immigrants with LEP who have sought telemental health services in their primary language to explore their decision-making processes and experiences.

Throughout the dissertation project, I employ the public health critical race praxis (PHCRP) with a focus on 1) contemporary patterns of racial relations, 2) knowledge production, 3) conceptualization and measurement, 4) and action. In addition to the qualitative part of the study, I collaborate with the community advisory board for voice representation and use dissemination strategies such as data visualization and mapping.

Funded Grant/Award for Dissertation Research

  • Grand Challenges for Social Work Doctoral Award ($3,000), Grand Challenges for Social Work (Funding: New York Community Trust)
  • Diane Greenstein Memorial Fellowship ($5,000), NYU Silver School of Social Work
  • C.V. Starr Fund for A/P/A Research ($1,000), Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
  • PhD Program Dissertation Research Fund ($1,000), NYU Silver School of Social Work
  • Graduate Student Award for Summer Research on Migration ($1,500), NYU Migration Network

Below, you will find a selected list of publications and presentations based on research areas.

1) Understand the structural factors in provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services

2) Advance understanding of mental health and well-being among Asian/Asian American communities

3) Harness data science and natural language processing methods in social work research

4) Understand technology-related factors in improving well-being among (im)migratns

5) Understand factors related to health, mental health and well-being among immigrants in South Korea