Ph.D. Candidate Closing the Health Gap

Selected as a Health Policy Research Scholar, sociology Ph.D. candidate Harvey Nicholson works to close the gap in health disparities throughout the United States. Out of 295 applicants, Nicholson was one of 40 chosen to be a part of this national leadership program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Nicholson’s research focuses on the risk involved with substance-use behaviors like illicit or prescription drug misuse. He pays particular attention to these issues as they exist in black and other stigmatized groups in society.

“Growing up as a black male, I always had an interest in figuring out how and why blacks and other marginalized groups are disproportionately impacted by poverty, substance use and poor health,” Nicholson said. “After taking my first sociology course during my undergraduate years at West Chester University, I began to understand how both historical and present-day macro and micro-level structures interact to create such negative outcomes.”

After receiving his bachelor and master’s degrees in sociology from West Chester University and Lehigh University, respectively, Nicholson chose to attend UCF for his doctoral study. He did so because of UCF’s faculty and their research focus in substance use and social inequalities.

“The faculty in UCF’s sociology department have been great,” he said. “On numerous occasions and still to this day, I have been able to collaborate with faculty on research and learn skills necessary to conduct sound empirical research in my field.”

UCF faculty member, Amy Donley, Ph.D., served as Nicholson’s mentor as he went through the application process to be considered for the Health Policy Research Scholar program. After submitting letters of recommendation from other faculty members as well as his resume, Nicholson was invited to participate in an interview with associates of the program. He answered questions about his research and focus on health policy. He found out a few weeks later that he received the award and was officially a Health Policy Research Scholar.

“I was in shock,” he said. “However, I was and still am extremely proud to have my hard work recognized by such a prestigious program like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”

Through the program, he will continue to focus on health disparities and the impact that gap has on the lives of those within marginalized groups.

After he graduates from UCF, Nicholson plans to work in academia and continue to conduct research to use in creating health policy changes.

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