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The EMPOWER Lab at the University of Georgia operates under the Direction of Dr. Isha Metzger and focuses on "Engaging Minorities in Prevention Outreach Workshops Evaluation & Research." Within this context, The EMPOWER Lab focuses on reducing mental health disparities through increasing engagement and enhancing mental health treatment outcomes among underserved minority populations (e.g., African Americans). Specifically, The EMPOWER Lab focuses on preventing engagement in risky behaviors (e.g., sexual activity, alcohol use, delinquency) as well as understanding risk and resilience factors (e.g., trauma experiences, racial socialization and racial discrimination, family and peer relationships) that impact the relation between trauma exposure and problematic outcomes (e.g., STI/HIV exposure, unintended pregnancies, revictimization, drunk-driving accidents, legal system involvement). The EMPOWER Lab also engages in translational research including the conceptualization, implementation, dissemination, and systematic evaluation of prevention programming aimed at reducing mental health and health disparities among African American youth.

For more information on Dr. Metzger at the University of Georgia, please visit her page on the Department Website at http://psychology.uga.edu/directory/isha-metzger and/or visit her Personal Website at www.Dr.IshaMetzger.com

Current Research Projects

The Impact of Racial Socialization and Racial Stress   on the Association between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Detrimental Outcomes   among African American Adolescents

Owens Institute   for Behavioral Research, University of Georgia

  • Studies suggest that traumatic experiences (e.g., physical abuse, criminal victimization, witnessing domestic violence) take a disproportionate toll on African American youth than their Caucasian and Hispanic peers. This pilot project aims to test hypotheses regarding risk (e.g., racial discrimination, vicarious racial trauma) and protective (e.g., racial socialization) mechanisms associated with African American youths' adjustment to traumatic and abusive experiences.

Culturally Enhanced Trauma Treatment to Reduce HIV Risk for African American Youth: Integrating Racial Socialization

National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health

  • Creation of a standardized cultural enhancement for existing evidence-based trauma treatments. Integrating racial socialization by clinicians both within (e.g., psychoeducation) and between (e.g., in-vivo, “in real life” assignments) sessions with African American youth and caregivers in order to improve engagement and decrease trauma sequelae (e.g., PTSD, HIV risk) for this population.

The Impact of Lifestyle Factors on Rural Youths’ Vulnerability to Substance Abuse

Center for Translational and Prevention Science, University of Georgia

  • Challenging rural environments take a toll on neurocognitive development, undermining the development of decision making skills and affecting substance use vulnerability. Emerging research also suggests that youths’ development of decision making competencies may be affected by a number of lifestyle factors including sleep, physical activity, food, caffeine, and interactive media. This study focuses on how stressful environments affect substance use via neurocognitive pathways.

A Community Based Participatory Research Approach to Reducing Health Disparities in Service Initiation and Engagement following Trauma Exposure

National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health

  • Mixed methods Community Based Participatory Research Study designed to explore barriers and facilitators to service initiation and engagement, and to identify strategies to address barriers to service engagement among racial/ethnic minority youth and families who are referred to Children’s Advocacy Centers following potential trauma exposure.

Previous Research Projects

African American College Students’ Alcohol Use and Sexual Behaviors: Associations with Stress, Racial Discrimination, and Social Support

Southern Regional Education Board

  • The “Activities and Behaviors in College” (ABC) Study sought to identify risk behavior profiles of alcohol use, risky sex, and co-occurring alcohol use and sexual activity among emerging adults in college. Additionally, this study examined the ways that risk behavior profiles were associated with general and culturally specific risk and resilience factors for college students.